The Baptism of Christ

I love a fun fact. Don’t you love a fun fact?

Did you know that elephants are the only mammal that can’t jump, or horned lizards squirt blood out of their eyeballs to ward off predators?! Butterflies taste with their feet and cows moo with regional accents and have best friends. Did you know that?

Did you also know that there is the same amount of water on the earth now as there was when the earth was formed? Some websites tell you this means the water you drink is likely to contain dinosaur wee from some point in time, but I have a way better thought… how about this… some of the water you drink today, some of the water you swim in, or the water you were baptised in, might just be the same water in which Jesus was baptised. How about that?

When I first realised water was recycled over and over since the dawn of time – raining down into rivers, sweeping out to seas, evaporating into clouds and beginning again – and the atoms making up my own glass of water could be part of the water the spirit brooded over back in Genesis One, or that Moses parted or Jesus was baptised in – when I first realised that, I blissed out on that for a good amount of time and here we are, this morning, right back by the river Jordan, with John and our Lord waist deep in that water, and I’m back there again.

Imagine that moment…

People, filled with expectation: is John the messiah we’ve waited for??

John’s cryptic answers and strange clothing. His mentions of fire, water and spirit.

Herod, breathing out murderous threats.

And people queueing to get into those waters, die to sin and come out the other side – dripping on the riverbanks.  And then along comes the Palestinian carpenter, Joseph’s son, wading into the water. John sinks him under and then it happens.

He’s lifted out of the water, the heavens open; the spirit descends, visibly, like an actual dove and there is the voice…

You are my son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased.

An epiphany

And Jesus is baptised in water that has been around since the dawn of time.

And so are we.

At each baptism service, I think ‘what one thing do I want this family to know today’. What one thing? And often it’s this: even though you can’t see the heavens open, or the spirit descend like a dove – even though you can’t see it, and probably can’t hear this voice of God saying ‘you are my son, you are my daughter and I love you’ – please know that is exactly what is happening today. That’s what I want every baptism child and family and supporters and godparents to know.

And that’s what I want you to know today too.

Jesus is baptised…and the epiphany that he is God’s son is revealed to all who were there and to all who heard about it, then, and down through the ages, in the pages of scripture.

And we, many of us, were also baptised in water – maybe even some of the very same molecules. The very same H20.  And on that day, and since, have we seen the heavens opened over us and the spirit descend on us? Have we too heard the voice of our creator, the source of life, declare those words over us – you are my child, I adore you. Whether you’ve seen it or heard it, do you know it?

The other thing I try to communicate at baptisms is that we only do this once, don’t miss it, I say. Stand on your chair, turn to the back, don’t miss it, it’s a one-off – we believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. Don’t we? Well, this week, I think I’ve changed my mind a bit. I mean, I do still believe in one baptism – that once is absolutely sufficient and all that’s needed – regardless of whether my parents brought me just to ‘get me done’ or for the party afterwards. I do trust the power of the sacrament that one baptism is entirely adequate – way more than adequate, actually. But I believe it is enough, because it begins a process – it begins an act of belonging, believing, adopting, and loving that goes on right until we meet God face-to-face.

We only baptise once, because God keeps on baptising and baptising us, over and over.

In baptism we are washed clean, made children of the living God, and told we are utterly beloved, that God is pleased with us. And that is not a one-off event. Every day, every second of every day, we are transformed, sanctified, made holy, and loved. Always loved by God, always well pleased of God. So yes, baptism is a one-off event, it only happens once but that is because it happens continually – over and over – every day.

I don’t think I’ve read that somewhere and I haven’t searched to find a theologian who agrees with me, but it sounds like the kind of grace that the source of all Love would extend, over and over; that God would be constantly baptising us into God’s family as an act of love and unconditional acceptance.

Whether we share the same molecules in our own baptism that Christ was drenched in at his – whether it’s splashes of the same water or not, the truth is that it is the same God tearing the heavens apart, lavishing God’s spirit upon us and pouring out affirmations of love and belonging. The same love, the same promises, the same parenting, the same holy acceptance.

And as a reminder of that, and a reminder of our own baptism, I’m going to give you the opportunity to encounter it again – a soaking and an outpouring of the lavish and abundant love of God…

‘We give you thanks O God that you have called us by name, and we are yours

We thank you for the promise that we are your sons and daughters, your children – that you love us and are pleased with us.

Pour out your spirit, like a dove – bless and sanctify this water so that as we remember our baptism, so we may know your love for us all over again.

May the promises of our baptism be refreshed, and the rewards of our baptism be renewed – over and over.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord, after who’s example and at who’s command, we are baptised. Amen’

Remember your baptism and be thankful.

Amen.

3 Comments

  1. jaingalliford says:

    FABULOUS, ALLELUIA, thank you, your words are just wonderful

    Made me feel so wholesome, full of His live and grace as I lead intersessions in church today.

    In Gods love

    Jain

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Like

  2. Vera Thompson says:

    brilliant and thought provoking as usual many thanks

    Like

  3. Sharron says:

    Grate sermon again gemma ur just 1 of the best preachers Iver ever herd in my life no bull sht its true ur a grate preacher ur sermons captivate me.st pauls sure are blessed 2 have u as there priest

    Like

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