Baptized: I am Baptized. I am a Beloved Child of God
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
The story of Jesus’ baptism by John is one that we know very well. Sometimes that familiarity makes it harder for us to hear the message of the text. Jesus’ baptism is significant in and of itself, but it is also significant in that it reminds us of our own baptisms.
This year we are commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Our theme is Liberated by God’s Grace. Here we are proclaiming that in our baptism we receive full and complete justification. Contrary to the loudly proclaimed story we are hearing about the “self-made person”—salvation is not for sale. Contrary to the messages of racism, misogyny, xenophobia, anti-refugee—human beings are not for sale. Contrary to those who advocate progress at any cost including damage to the environment—creation is not for sale.
As I followed stories about the action being taken at Standing Rock, I heard a new term—water protectors. Those who were resisting the building of the Dakota Access pipeline, were calling themselves water protectors and proclaiming that water is sacred.
What would it mean for us to be water protectors? Protecting the waters of baptism? Not letting them become dried out, or polluted or corrupted? For those of us who live in a church that proclaims the liberating grace we receive through baptism as the lens through which we understand our relationship with God, we often have a hard time claiming that grace for ourselves. Let me share a couple of stories to try to explain this.
One of the “jokes” I grew up hearing was the story of an old couple. After many years of marriage, the wife became concerned and frustrated because her husband never told her that he loved her. So she asked him why he never told her he loved her. His answer? I told you the day we were married. If it ever changes, I’ll let you know!
My liturgics professor, Paul Bosch, often told of a piece of research that showed that couples who kiss each other goodbye and hello, as a regular practice, stay together more often than those that do not. Furthermore, it has the same effect whether they mean it or not.
The reality is that we are people who need to be reminded, again and again, about the significance of our baptisms and the love that God has for us. I invite you to join me this year of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in a daily practice. Every morning, trace the sign of the cross on your forehead and say out loud, “I am baptized. I am a beloved child of God.”
I think we may be surprised at the difference it will make in our lives, in our relationship with God and in our ministry in the church and in our world—whether we mean it or not! And like our old married couple, our minds can be put at ease knowing God had not changed God’s mind about the unconditional love that God has for each one of us.
National Bishop Susan Johnson
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada