Remember - Baptism


As the official rode along in his carriage, he was reading the prophet Isaiah out loud. The Spirit said to Philip, "Go to that carriage, and stay close to it." Philip ran to the carriage and could hear the official reading the prophet Isaiah out loud. Philip asked him, "Do you understand what you're reading?" The official answered, "How can I understand unless someone guides me?" So he invited Philip to sit with him in his carriage. This was the part of the Scriptures that the official was reading: "He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. He was like a sheep that is silent when its wool is cut off. He didn't open his mouth. When he humbled himself, he was not judged fairly. Who from his generation will talk about his life on earth being cut short?" The official said to Philip, "I would like to know who the prophet is talking about. Is he talking about himself or someone else?" Then Philip spoke. Starting with that passage, Philip told the official the Good News about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water. The official said to Philip, "Look, there's some water. What can keep me from being baptized?" (OMITTED TEXT) The official ordered the carriage to stop. He and Philip stepped into the water, and Philip baptized him. (Act 8:28-38)

(Before beginning, I invite you to read “By Water and the Spirit” as it represents the primary source material for this sermon and the United Methodist Church's full statement on baptism)

Health care has been put front and center in our lives lately but have you picked up on the next “big thing?” It has been planned to come to your home and take your breath away – literally. As one part of the team says - “The breath is a window into the blood.” Yep, we'll be able to smell how you're doing by your breath. Breath-mints anyone?

Breath is more than 99% water, but roughly 3000 other compounds have been detected in human breath. An average sample contains at least 200 other components, including bits of DNA, proteins, bacteria and fats floating in the mist. We're a water people, but then the Biblical story has been clear we have always been wishy-washy.

From the beginning of the Biblical record, God gave us the opportunity to choose God or choose our own way. Ever since we chose our own way we've been wishy-washy. This is what makes the covenant of God so significant and the sacraments so important to remember.

In both the Old and New Testament, God enters into covenant relationship with
God’s people. A covenant involves promises and responsibilities of both parties; it is instituted through a special ceremony and expressed by a distinguishing sign. In the old covenant it was circumcision. (Genesis 17:1-14, Exodus 24:1-12). In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God fulfilled the prophecy of a new covenant and called forth the Church as a servant community (Jeremiah 31:31-34, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). For Christians, that sign would be baptism.

Baptism, like communion, is a sacrament. A sacrament is intended to help us a remember that God is the one doing the offering – it is he who is giving the gift. It differs in this way from a dedication where we make a gift of a life to God for God to accept. We believe that the sacrament of baptism is as much for the child or youth or adult – the parents – the grandparents and for you and me. We remember and proclaim what God has Done.

But some ask why should I be baptized?

1. IT FOLLOWS THE EXAMPLE OF JESUS.

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth and was baptized by John in the river. Mark 1:9

2. IT HONORS JESUS' TEACHING.

Jesus said, “Go then, to all people everywhere and make them my disciples, baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and then teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20

3. IT DEMONSTRATES MY COMMITMENT JESUS.
We know that we have come to know Him, if we obey His commands. 1 Jn 2:3
Those who believed and accepted His message were baptized… Acts 2:41
But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Acts 8:12
One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, ...And after she was baptized, and her household as well, (Act 16:15)
Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. (Act 18:8)

Of course the questions don't end there. Remembering the heritage is important to understanding the answers to some of those such as...

WHY DO YOU BAPTIZE INFANTS?
New Testament contains no explicit mandate, there is ample evidence for the baptism of infants in Scripture (Acts 2:38-41, 16:15,33) and in early Christian doctrine and practice. Polycarp (69-155 AD), a disciple of the Apostle John, was baptized as an infant. Justin Martyr (100-166 AD) of the next generation, about the year 150 AD, states in his Dialog with Trypho The Jew that Baptism is the circumcision of the New Testament." Irenaeus (130-200 AD) writes in Against Heresies II 22:4 that Jesus came to save all through means of Himself -- all, I say, who through Him are born again to God -- infants and children, boys and youth, and old men." (I don't agree with the theology but the research by Dr. Dennis Kastens is solid: Infant Baptism History)

Infant baptism is based on the understanding that God prepares the way of faith before we request or even know that we need help. This grace that goes before is often referred to as prevenient grace (UMC).

It is sometimes asked DO I NEED TO BE REBAPTIZED?

Nope, once is enough, no matter what denomination baptized you. Remember, this is God's work.

You're United Methodists so you sprinkle when you baptize, right?
No, our church has always offered to people being baptized and to the parents of infants the choice of sprinkling, pouring, or immersion. Immersions tradition comes from John the baptist but sprinkling came from the Old Testament, Num. 19:18-19 and Psalm 51.7-12. I've jokingly said that we'll spray you down with a hose.

The amount of water that covers our bodies will never be sufficient to enact change in our souls. “Baptism,” Maxie Dunnam says, “doesn't explain, it proclaims.” Whether it is a baby baptized, a youth, or an adult, baptism is an outward sign of an inward grace – God's gift, a gift in Jesus Christ which has been offered to us all. This is what the man declared to Philip, not that he had done something but he believed GOD had offered Him grace. Baptism is a representation that GOD HAS MOVED, DOES MOVE AND WILL MOVE to bring us into connection with Himself.

How can I "remember [my] baptism and be thankful" when I was baptized as a baby?

What we are called to remember in reaffirmation is the gift of God's grace, not a particular event. Through this celebration, we can "remember" our baptism as much as we "remember" our own birthday each year.

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1 comments:

Texas Methodist said...

Hi,

Interesting post... I'm a member of a Texas UMC congregation and I prefer credo- baptism and therefore my children haven't been baptized yet. They'll be baptized when once they experience conversion. I understand and have a respect for the UMC position but wonder to what degree my view is accommodated. My point isn’t to debate pedobaptism. I think that’s futile. A solid case can be made in either direction. Although I find that the strongest cases for pedobaptism usually are made by either Catholics (who believe in baptismal regeneration) or Reformed Christians who view it in terms of Covenant Theology.
Considering that most UMC churches don’t have a baptistery, how a UMC pastor comply with a request for immersion? Would one make arrangements at a church (another denomination) that has a baptistery? I know the UMC states that they’ll allow the person to decide what mode, but how practical is that? I’ve seen Anglican churches (in the U.K) and Nazerene churches (in the U.S) that invest in portable baptisteries but I’ve never seen that within the UMC. My point isn’t to draw controversy, but rather to gain a better understanding of how this plays out.

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