Psalm 27:1-14, Matthew 3:13-17
Today we are continuing a tradition. And I’ve been wondering how long it takes before something becomes a tradition! Did you ever think about that?
A number of years ago, I was attending a lecture, and the presenter asked a similar question. He said, “How long it takes for the words ‘We’ve never done it that way,’ to become, ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it.” He suggested that it took about seven years. I don’t know how true that is, but it is an interesting thought.
Well, the “tradition” we’re continuing today is that we are taking this Sunday, a day we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord, and we’re using it to think about our own Baptism and the commitments made at that time – commitments made, either by us, or by our parents. And then we’re using this as an opportunity to start a new year by recommitting our lives to God’s kingdom.
I think that’s a great tradition! I think that’s a great way to start a new year. This is the time for “resolutions.” This is the time to look at our lives, make assessments, and then make promises – which we’ll keep for about 3 or 4 weeks! (Anybody broken any New Year’s Resolutions yet?)
This is also a good time of year to remember that, as Christians, we are called to commit our lives to serving God and his kingdom. We’re called to “resolve” – to make “resolutions” – to be more like Jesus, who is not only our Savior, but our example. He is our leader! But how often do we go back on those commitments? How often do we “blow it?” How often do we forget to be Christ-like in our interactions with others?
It’s too easy, isn’t it? It’s too easy to fail in our Christian commitment. And when that happens often enough, it leads to discouragement! Doesn’t it? We start to think we’ll never be very dedicated. And we start to think that such failure is “in our nature.” And let me tell you something about that. It is! It is in our nature! To fail is in our nature. To be discouraged is in our nature. To feel like we might as well “give up trying” is in our nature. All of us!!
But! In all that we are called to do and to be, one of the most important things we are called to do is to be persistent. We fall, we get back up. We mess up, we try again. We fail in our commitment to God and his kingdom, we do something about it. We recommit ourselves. And you know what? God picks us up. He forgives, even when we don’t “feel” forgivable! He touches us, and he reminds us of his amazing and inconceivable Grace. That’s how it works. That’s how it always works! Just ask David, or Peter!
And there’s more to it! Not only does God pick us up. We also pick each other up! That’s one of the reasons we do what we do as a congregation. That’s why we Presbyterians have chosen to do our sacraments as congregational events! We Presbys don’t do private sacraments. As I tell the Deacons, Even home communions need to have someone else present to represent the congregation. That congregational connection is at the heart of our sacraments! And that’s very important. That’s why we’re going to renew our baptism vows today, as a congregation!
There’s the age old question, I’m sure you’ve heard before. “Can you be a Christian without being in a Church.” The first and obvious answer is “Yes.” “Of course you can.” But the more important question is, “Can you live a meaningful Christian life, can you grow in your faith, can you make it through the adversity of this life without the support and encouragement of other believers?” In other words, “Can you live the joyful life God wants you to have, without sharing that life with others?” I think you know the answer to that question!
Remember in all of this, that God wants the best for us! That’s why he gave us each other. That’s why, in his great wisdom, he “wired us” to want to be in relationship with others. That’s also why he gave us his commandments. He wants us to have the highest level of loving interaction with each another! He wants us to have life and to have it more abundantly! That means sharing that life together! God wants the best for us!
And one more thing… And this is why I’m glad we have this story in the Gospels. (All four of them, by the way!) When we think of this man Jesus, this leader, this example, we need to have assurance and be reassured, that we are following the right person. Isn’t that true? Do we need that? Well, in this story, we can know that Jesus is who he said he is! And the very voice of God has confirmed that! The heavens were opened, and God said for all to hear, “This is my beloved son!”
So then, when we think about our commitment to Jesus, keep in mind this scene where the people heard the voice of God confirming who he was! And then, with the story of his baptism in mind, let us stand reconfirm our baptism.
Renewal of Baptism Vows
Eternal God, help us to have the strength we need to fulfill our commitment to you. Help us as we live this life together to encourage one another, to uphold one another, and to share this life together with each other and with you. For this we pray in the name of your son, Jesus, Amen.