Friday, January 11, 2008

Baptism Is More Than Getting All Wet!

January13, 2008 Year A

The Baptism of the Lord

Reflections on the Readings

By Dennis Hankins

Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7; Psalm 29:1-4, 9-10

Acts 10:34-38; Matthew 3:13-17

Theme:  Baptism Is More Than Getting All Wet!

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 

On August 27, 1967, on a very warm and sunny Sunday afternoon, we gathered on the bank of the muddy Patoka River (Duff, IN) where several of us were to be baptized.  At this same location, in the early 1920's, my Pentecostal great-grandfather had also conducted baptisms. Although we did not hold a sacramental view of baptism, I somehow knew standing there looking at the water that this was important.  The scriptures about being buried and raised with Christ through baptism were read and Shall We Gather at the River was sung.  And then one by one we walked into the muddy water to Pastor Jesse Lauderdale who with the elders immersed me into the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, saying, Brother Dennis Hankins, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  It was about 2 O'clock in the afternoon.  I felt compelled to record the event in my Bible. 

Baptism sacramentally unites us to Jesus.  How does baptism bring us into the life of the Trinity?  Through John's baptism Jesus made himself one with us.  John hesitates to impose his Baptism of repentance on the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  But Jesus embraced John's baptism to show the way to a restored relationship with the Father.  As with other OT precepts and regulations, Jesus invokes Baptism as the fulfillment of all righteousness.  John's baptism made its participants aware of a holy God and a coming Savior. However, Jesus makes baptism our participation in the very life of the Holy Trinity.  The sacrament of baptism assimilates us to Jesus, who in his own baptism anticipates his death and resurrection for the life of the world. (See CCC 537) 

In Jesus' baptism we witness the Spirit resting on him and the voice of the Father declaring, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."  Is there any greater witness to the significance of Baptism?  Later Jesus would ask, "Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?"  Even Peter said Judas' office must be filled by 'one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John.  Jesus' baptism began his ministry of doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil.  Early Church preaching began with the Baptism of John because it was where Jesus is manifested as the
Son God.  

The grace of Baptism has made us heirs of God, joint heirs with Jesus Christ.  It makes us fellow members of the household of faith; partakers of the divine nature, an immeasurably deep and infinite love.  Our restoration to the Father is possible through baptism.  This restoration is a gift of righteousness that can grow with ever increasing love and obedience to the Father's heart. Through Baptism we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Baptism is the door to this dynamic relationship; that which gives us a new heart that believes God is love; and with our mouth we now say Jesus Is Lord. 

Faithful parents, grandparents and godparents brought you to the waters of Baptism. Being baptized as an infant does not make Baptism of less effect or without meaning.  It is a sign of the Covenant and of your covenantal relationship with Christ and His Church.  

Christian Baptism is so much more than getting wet, so much more!  

Let us pray:  Dear Jesus, help me to grow in the grace of my Baptism.  May these holy waters continue in me until they become a mighty flood of regenerating grace; a great exchange of sin for newness of life.  Amen.



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