How’s Your Baptism Treating You?
Don’t just stand there. Do something! Have you ever said that to someone? Don’t just stand there. Do something.
If you have said it, you’ve likely said it in frustration. On a job site. To a co-worker. Who is just standing around not doing anything. Don’t just stand there – do something!
I’ve said it to others, but I’ve also said it to myself.
Susan and I are having new windows put in. By a couple of guys who really know what they are doing. And they’re really good at it.
On one of the days, I tried to help out. ‘Tried’ being the operative word here. I mean, what do I know about putting in windows? And they had everything under control. They worked decisively. With confidence. They could handle the tools.
I was watching them with a skill-saw.
When I use a skill-saw, I carefully measure and re-measure and re-re-measure. Then I make sure I can cut on a safe, solid surface. I carefully pull back the guard – I’m left-handed so that’s always a challenge –at least that’s my excuse - then I try to line up the slot on the saw with the mark on my board – always forget which slot is the right one to use. Squint my eyes. Pull the trigger. Whew, still have all my fingers!
They were using a skill-saw to widen the opening for the window – they were up on a plank between two ladders – working over their heads with the skill-saw – sawdust flying everywhere. The saw screamed through the wood - zoom – one cut and they were done. Amazing.
Anyways, that’s when I feel like I’m just getting in the way. I say to myself – ‘Don’t just stand there – do something’ – and I scurry around picking up garbage – pull out the odd nail – go to the garage to move the scraps from one area to another – all the while feeling like I just don’t have a lot to contribute to this noisy, dusty, operation.
Don’t just stand there. Do something. A bit of an echo of what the angels said to the disciples in the passage we just read - as they stood looking up into the heavens, watching Jesus disappear before their very eyes.
It was 40 days after the death and resurrection of Jesus. He had appeared a number of times to his followers – showing that he was alive. He came to them while they were locked away in the upper room – showed them the wounds in his wrists and side – He appeared to two of them as they walked the road to Emmaus – as they walked he explained how the entire Bible pointed toward the coming Messiah – they stopped and he broke bread with them -that’s when they recognized it was Jesus.
He also showed up on the beach one morning after the disciples had just had a hard night of fishing. He even cooked breakfast for them –
He told them that his time had come – that he had to return to his Father in heaven – but he reminded them that he would not leave them alone – that he would give them the gift of the Holy Spirit, who would be their comforter and guide. He instructed them not to rush off but to wait in Jerusalem for the gift of the Holy Spirit – “…that’s when you will have the power you need to go and be my witnesses - in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
And then, after Jesus had finished with his instructions, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
And the disciples just stood there and stared. You can’t really blame them, can you? I mean, really? This is not an everyday occurrence. People do not just up and float away like a hot-air balloon.
So the disciples just stood there – long enough for two angels to come to them
“Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
He will come back. He will return. We don’t know when – but we do have this promise. Jesus will come back to us – in the same way as he went, he will return.
So don’t just stand there!
But – we don’t know what to do.
Well, don’t just stand there!
But – we aren’t equipped to carry on without Jesus…
Don’t just stand there!
But the needs – the poverty – the pain – the emptiness – the hunger – the meaninglessness – the political corruption – the natural disasters – the unanswered questions –
How do we even begin to speak into the empty spaces of this world with the message of hope and forgiveness and new life in Jesus Christ when Jesus isn’t even here with us? It is just too much!
And in much the same way as I stood around looking up the ladders as these guys put in my new windows – so the disciples stood around watching Jesus disappear before their eyes.
There is just so much to do – and we really don’t feel equipped! And so we stand around, hands in our pockets, kicking at little dirt piles as we make idle conversation about the weather.
I think what we forget is that we actually have been given the resources to do much more than just stand around. And we forget, because we were given those resources a very long time ago.
When we were baptized.
We just witnessed the baptism of Acre and Wesley.
And we heard in the form that the water of baptism is a sign of washing – that it signifies the washing away of our sin by the blood of Christ and the renewal of our lives by the Holy Spirit.
So what happened up front here is a sign – the water is a symbol of what Jesus already accomplished on the cross – Jesus paid for the sin of Acre and Wesley by giving his life as a sacrifice of atonement. The water doesn’t save them – but Jesus does.
And as Jesus promised his Holy Spirit to his disciples –he promises that same gift to all of his children.
The Holy Spirit. The one who takes the place of Jesus in our hearts.
The One who comforts us and strengthens us and reminds us of who we are –
the Holy Spirit who does the renewing and empowering and equipping
the Holy Spirit is God’s gift to Acre and Wesley -
and the Holy Spirit is God’s gift to all of us who have been baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And I think that we often forget that. That we have been given the Holy Spirit. I think we often forget that because we forget our baptism.
How many of you have been baptized? I dare say that at least 90% of us here this morning have been baptized. Some of you were baptized as babies. Some of you were baptized later in life. Some were baptized by dunking. Some were baptized by sprinkling. Some were baptized in a hot-tub. Some were baptized as you were held in the arms of your parents.
And those baptisms were all real. Whether it was at a Roman Catholic font or a Baptist immersion tank – whether it was in a Christian Reformed Church or an non-denominational church –
when the pastor or priest or reverend or dominee said “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit…” –
he or she was verbalizing the reality of God’s covenant promise to you –
and when the water was sprinkled or splashed or poured – or you were dunked – the pastor was acting out a symbol –the symbol of water washing away your sin - a sign of God’s forgiveness and a sign that your life was already then being renewed by the Holy Spirit.
That is what happens at baptism. God put his mark on you –God said ‘yes’ to you – and God looks forward to the day when you come to God and say ‘yes’ to him and to his promises and to his forgiveness and to his HS.
Now the thing is – baptism is not the end of the story. Sometimes we act like it – as if Baptism is the end of the story – phew – got ‘er done – now we can rest –
But that’s not how it works at all. Baptism is just the beginning of the story.
For the rest of our lives, we live out of the reality of our baptism. Those promises made to us – that Jesus has washed away our sins – that his Holy Spirit is even now renewing our lives – that’s just the beginning of the story. For the rest of our lives we get to use that gift and allow it to grow in us more and more as we live into the promises of our baptism.
It is almost as though baptism is the gift that just keeps on giving.
Now we can just leave that gift up on the shelf – unopened –
Or we can take it, open it, and use it.
If we open the gift of our baptism, we will grow in our understanding of what it all means that our sins are forgiven.
If we open it, we will discover how the Holy Spirit is ready to breathe power and boldness and grace into our lives, so that we will be equipped not to just stand around but to actually work in God’s Kingdom – to spread the news of Jesus Christ – and to prepare the way for his second coming.
The gift is ours for the opening.
And this brings me to ask a question of all of us. And that is this:
How is your baptism treating you?
Assuming you have been baptized – (and if you haven’t, that’s a whole different conversation I would love to have with you) but if you have been baptized …
How’s that going for you?
Have you opened the gift? Are you opening it? Are you aware - as you go about your daily work – that you have been baptized? Are you aware that this needs to be an on-going reality – your baptism was a one-time event, but the consequences of your baptism get played out for the rest of your life?
How is your baptism treating you?
As I’m writing this message, I am asking myself the same question. And wondering why I do spend so much time feeling inadequate – or fearful – or just aimlessly kicking about in the dirt.
God’s promises are so full – they are so rich – they are so comforting and empowering – yet I can so easily feel inadequate or unprepared.
And I begin to realize that I don’t give the Holy Spirit enough space or permission to work in my life. And when I don’t give the Holy Spirit the space, I easily become discouraged. Or I lose sight of why I’m here in the first place. Or I just get caught up in unimportant activities and forget that I am here – we are all here – to spread the good news of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ, and to act that out in response to the needs around us.
Wesley and Acre are just beginning. They have a lifetime to grow into their baptisms.
As a congregation, we just committed to pray for them – that they will discover the depth of God’s grace and forgiveness as they grow and go through the various stages of life. We promised. And we need to do that.
The rest of us – we are all at different stages on our faith journey. Some of us may have our gift of baptism safely stored away somewhere – still wrapped up and waiting. Some may have opened the gift but then forgotten about it – it’s unwrapped but just sitting there on a shelf. Some of us even now are exploring the gift of God’s grace – trying it on for size – figuring out that the gift of forgiveness brings with it a whole new identity and power.
As we move through this process, we need to pray for each other as well. That is our role as the family of God. To pray for each other - that we will all discover who we are in Jesus Christ - that we are God’s children, loved, forgiven, and empowered to do God’s work in the place where God has put us.
God has gifted us in so many different ways. Some are amazing at carpentry work. Some at caring for the land and animals. Some have gifts of hospitality and some have the gift of being able to write a sermon. Alone, we can do very little. But together we can do much to do God’s work in a world that is desperate for salvation.