A couple of Sundays ago at the Krum Church we did two fun things: 1) we celebrated Epiphany (when the 3 wise men, kings, or magi – whatever you want to call them – came to worship the Christ child) and 2) we started our new Sunday schedule with two worship services (11am and 5pm). I came home Sunday night intoxicated on a blend of joy, Holy Spirit, and exhaustion. It was magnificent.
Last week was no less exciting as we launched into our new series – “from Water to Glory.” As a liturgical, connectional church, we keep the Christian calendar. This means that last Sunday was the time we were called to remember the Baptism of the Lord. Jesus, who knew no sin, came to be baptized by his cousin, John, in the river Jordan. And in that moment, as he came up from the water, the Spirit appeared like a dove and the voice of God spoke, "You are my son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased" (Mark 1:11).
In the sacrament of baptism, we are born anew by water and the Spirit (John 3:5). We are water-washed and Spirit-born, brought into a special covenant as God’s grace is poured out upon us.
As United Methodists, we understand God to be the one who acts in baptism. Yes, we show up, we profess our faith, we present our child, but ultimately baptism is something God does with, for, and to us. As such, we don’t baptize someone more than once, although we do take opportunities, like this Sunday, to remember our baptism and be thankful.
Because I believe that God speaks over each of us in our baptism and beyond, “You are my child, my beloved; with you I am well-pleased.” Of course we feel inadequate, we may try to quibble and say that those words only apply to Jesus. Most of those protests come from the place of shame, because we don’t feel like we deserve for God to feel that way about us. After all, unlike Jesus, we’re not perfect!
But hear this good news, brothers and sisters – God loves you and there’s nothing you can do about it. Whether or not you are ever baptized, God is just crazy about you, so much so that God will keep calling you and calling you and calling you, like a suitor who won’t take a hint. God wants a relationship with you!
Not because you did anything to deserve it. None of us deserve it. But simply because God made you for God’s self. You are God’s beloved child and God wants to be in your life like any good parent does.
As much as I get frustrated, tired, and otherwise less than good in my parenting relationship, it’s been a place of unsurpassed divine revelation for me. When I look at my boys, when I hold them in my arms, when I observe their wit, their curiosity, their humor – my heart swells with love. And if my little old heart, puny and human, can feel this depth of love, I can’t even begin to imagine what God feels for each of us. God’s love is an ocean compared to my water drop.
We make a covenant in our baptism and when we accept God’s grace that we will grow by faith toward perfection in love. Make sure you heard that correctly – perfection in love, not the world’s standards of perfection which are all warped and tangled up with fame, wealth, success, etc. God in Jesus Christ doesn’t promise those things. Being a follower of the crucified and risen One doesn’t come with a lot of guarantees of worldly comfort.
But being perfected in love is a different story. It means letting your heart grow, letting your love swell to encompass not just your family, your friends, your tribe. If you let God really get ahold of you, you find yourself loving strangers, enemies, those the world finds unlovely and unlovable. It’s an uncomfortable spot, because when you love others, really love them despite everything else about them save that they are God’s own child, you can’t treat them the same way anymore.
That’s the ground we’ll cover at the Krum Church these next few weeks. How do we grow from the waters of baptism to the glory of resurrection? We’ll look to the pioneer and perfecter of our faith as the trailblazer for our own journeys. May we have the grace to let God work in us!