15As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” 21Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
In baptism, we believe that God is the one who acts. This is a gift of pure grace. It is the water, together with God’s Word that the promise of forgiveness, the seal of the Holy Spirit, and life forever with God is given. How cool is that?
I shared the following story in a sermon last month. This story is a great illustration of who God is and how God operates. IT comes from Kelly Fryer’s book, “Reclaiming the ‘L’ Word, Reclaiming the Church from its Lutheran Core.”
…He was a visiting professor on campus my first year of seminary. And, forgive me, he was just not holding my attention this particular day. It was a beautiful day on campus and I wanted to be outside playing. Instead, I sat in the amphitheater with my classmates, listening to a lecture about some long-dead theologian. I was bored. And I don’t think I was alone. He must have known that we weren’t listening because he suddenly slapped his notebook shut and stopped talking. He wasn’t going to waste one more breath on us.
But, before he left the room, he picked up a piece of chalk and went to the board. He drew a gigantic ARROW, pointing straight down, stood back, and said: “If you understand that, you understand everything you need to know about what it means to be a Christian ... who also happens to be a Lutheran.” And then he left the room. We just sat there staring at it, this enormous, stark ARROW pointing straight down. And then I thought the most logical thing I could think, given everything that had just happened, “He thinks we’re all going to hell.”
The next time we gathered for class, he began by drawing that same arrow on the board. This time, as he began to speak, he had our full attention. “Here’s what this means,” he said. “God always comes down. God always comes down. There is never anything that we can ever do to turn that arrow around and make our way UP to God. God came down in Jesus. And God still comes down, in the bread and in the wine, in the water and in the fellowship of believers. God ALWAYS comes down.” (A definition – from Reclaiming the “L” Word: Renewing the Church from its Lutheran Core by Kelly A. Fryer)
God always comes down.
God is God, and you and I are not! We are created to be children of God, who are created to love and worship God, and love and serve our neighbors.
Let God be God, and rejoice in the promises of baptism.
Martin Luther is reported to have said (or shouted) when he felt tempted by the devil, "I am baptized." Isn’t it telling that Luther didn't battle Satan with "I believe" or "I have faith." His comfort in uncomfortable times was the fact that God came down to him in the waters of baptism. God always comes down.
Let us pray: Holy God, forgive us of the times we try to be more like you and less than what you created us to be. Thank you for your promises and your presence. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.