Tag Archives: baptism

Remembrance: A Baptismal Prayer

Central Presbyterian Baptismal FontIn water, you create life, O God.

In water, you wash us.

In water, you claim us.

In water, you bind us in the presence of the Spirit.

In water, you mark us in the love of Jesus Christ.

 

In the act of baptism,

we hear your promises and we make our own:

promises to teach the stories of your love;

promises to support one another in faith;

promises to care deeply for your children:

not only the children in our own churches,

not only the children in churches,

but all the ones whom you call blessed.

 

We give you thanks, O God, for baptism

and ask for lives shaped by its waters.

Pour your holy spirit out on these waters,

that they may be the sign and seal of your grace for us.

In the name of the holy trinity we pray. Amen.

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Sermon: I Love You Through and Through

This is the sermon I preached at Second Presbyterian Church on Sunday. May it remind you that you are loved, through and through.

[Rather listen than read? Get the podcast here.]

Matthew 3:13-17: 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.’

“I love you through and through. I love your happy side, your sad side, your silly sad, your mad side. I love your fingers and toes, your ears and nose. I love your hair and eyes, your giggles and cries. I love you running and walking, silent and talking, I love you through and through, yesterday, today, and tomorrow too.”

These are the words of my favorite children’s book, I Love You Through and Through, by Bernadette Rossetti-Shustak. I’ve bought more copies of that tiny board book than I can count; every newborn child in my life has received that book as a “welcome to the world” present. Before I meet them, or hold them in my arms, I send them that book. Before I know them or hear their little cry, I love them, through and through.

Prior to seminary, I worked as a nanny for two young girls—ages 2 and 4 when I began there. The toddler, Michelle, loved this book—“fu in fu,” she called it—and she insisted on hearing the words to “fu in fu” before every nap and every bed time. “I love you through and through, yesterday, today, and tomorrow too,” were the last words this child heard before closing her eyes each and every day. I don’t know if she knew what the words meant, but she knew they brought comfort. She knew they were important.

In our scripture story today, God says just what this book says: “I love you through and though.” Not in those words exactly, but something similar and just as poetic. “This is my son, the Beloved,” God says, “with whom I am well pleased.” Beloved. Be loved, through and through.

The story is among the most well known in our faith; we’ve all heard it countless times and seen countless depictions of the river, the dove, and the savior. The story of Jesus’ baptism gives us the beginning of his ministry. So far in the Gospel, Matthew has told us of Jesus’ long genealogy—the important and even scandalous family roots from which our savior grows. He’s given us the heartwarming story of Jesus’ birth and the tragic story of his escape to Egypt. He’s told us the words of John the Baptist, Jesus’ and cousin and prophet. But here, for the first time, Jesus’ own story truly begins. It’s at the Jordan River that we first hear Jesus’ voice. It’s at the Jordan River that we first see Jesus act—do something, rather than have something done unto him, and his first act is surprising.

If we could imagine Jesus’ first act of ministry, what would it be? I think I’d put the feeding of the 5000 first. It’d be a solid start to Jesus’ life—with a message of abundance of grace and sharing of resources. Or maybe a miraculous healing would be a good place to start—set the tone for the healing power Christ’s presence from the very beginning. John the Baptist would have had Jesus begin by preaching hell fire and brimstone—sorting out the hypocritical riffraff within the believing community and baptizing the world with fire.

But none of those things is Jesus’ first act of ministry. His first act is to be baptized. His first act is to be loved. “Beloved,” God says. “In him I am well pleased.” Before Jesus has fed the 5000, before he has healed the sick or given sight to the blind, God is pleased. Before Jesus has given his famed sermon on the mount, before he has done anything, he is called beloved. Before he has done radical acts of love, Jesus is loved. The first act of Jesus’ ministry is to receive love, through and through.

That’s the first act of our ministry, too: to receive love, through and through.

Maybe young children are better at that than teens or adults—better at being loved through and through. Through and through is vulnerable. To be loved through and through means to be known through and through, and there are parts of ourselves which we’d rather not have known. Maybe we’d rather be loved and known most of the way through, part of the way through on certain days, and just call that “good enough.”

But that’s not what the story says. That’s not what God does. That’s not what we do. To be called beloved is to be loved, through and through, even those parts that seem unlovable.

We talk a lot about giving love, about loving our neighbor and doing acts of love. Each of our church committees and councils gathers each month to discuss ways to serve the church and the world—to discern the best ways to love. We could preface each council title with the phrase, “The committee of Second Presbyterian Church for showing love by…” mission, advocacy, worship stewardship, congregational care, arts, education, the list goes on and on. The mission of our church is to show love, and we’re working hard at it. But it’s also more than that. It’s also to receive love—to be loved, through and through, by God and by one another.

Let’s imagine we had a committee on receiving love—a group of people who just got together to remember that they are loved. Where would they meet? What would they do? I think they’d meet here, at the font. I think they’d just spend time remembering their baptisms.

At Jesus’ baptism, God says, “This is my son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” All those things were true before Jesus touched the waters of the Jordan—Jesus was just as loved before and after his baptism, and all those things are true for us before and after our own baptisms. But the baptism brings a visible sign of that invisible grace. In baptism, God’s love is ritualized and enacted—made tangible through the water and the love of the gathered community. In baptism, the spirit binds us together in extraordinary ways, through ordinary water. In baptism, we are loved, through and through. And in baptized communities, we are called to love one another, through and through.

“I love you through and through, yesterday, today, and tomorrow too.” It’s my favorite line of my favorite book. When I give this book to infants, I always write a message to the child in the front cover, a note telling them that I love them and God loves them, too. I also write a note to the parents—a note telling moms and dads that I love them, and God loves them, too. God loves their happy side and their sad side, their silly side and their mad side.

Before we love, we are loved. That’s why we gather around this baptismal font—that’s why we pour water into it each and every week. To remember who and whose we are—beloved children of a loving God; loved even when we feel unlovable. Through the waters of baptism, we remind ourselves and one another that we are claimed by a God who knows us, we are bound to a community who cares for us, and we are loved, through and through. And when we know we are loved through and through, we cannot help but love others—yesterday, today, and tomorrow, too.

Amen.

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Baptism of Christ: Matthew 3:11-17

This coming Sunday is one of my favorites: Baptism of Christ Sunday. It’s an occasion to reflect on who we are, whose we are, and how we are called to live. It’s a reason to remember that we are washed and claimed by a God and a community who love us, and we are marked with an irreversible sign of God’s grace.

"This is my son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased."

“This is my son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

The lectionary text for this week is Matthew 3:13-17, but I’ve chosen to include verses 11-12, as well. Those two verses give us John the Baptist’s words about Jesus, and they remind us that Jesus was not what the world expected. He wasn’t even what John expected. John predicted a Messiah who would bring fiery judgment. Instead, Jesus was a Messiah who would bring living water.

Matthew 3:11-17  ‘I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’ 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 to 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 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.’

Below is some liturgy I’ve written for this text. May it remind you of the flowing abundance of God’s grace in our lives.

Call to Worship                                                                                

Hear these words from Scripture. “And God said, ‘Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” (Gen 1:6)

“Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty.” (John 4:14)

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.” (Rev 22:1)

“And early in the morning Jesus came walking towards them on the water.” (Matt 24:25)

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you” (Isa 43:2)

“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the waters were divided.” (Ex 14:21)

Let us worship the God of living water.

Let us worship the living God!

Prayer of Confession

God of grace and mercy, we confess that we have sinned against you by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have heard your words of justice rolling down like waters, and yet we often ignore our neighbors’ cries. We have felt the presence of your spirit among us, and yet we are afraid to listen to your voice. Have mercy on us, O God. By your grace, cleanse us. By your providence, help us to learn from our mistakes. By your Holy Spirit, equip us to love and honor you. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

Children of God, hear the good news: The grace of the Lord quenches our thirst, and God’s mercy satisfies our hunger. In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven. Amen.

Baptismal Prayer of Thanksgiving

The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give our thanks and praise.

We truly praise you, almighty God, for your faithfulness to creation through the gift of water.

In water, you provide, nourish, and sustain all life. In water, we are born, and in water we are claimed.

Through water we are connected to one another and to all creation. Through water we are reminded of your covenant promise.

The scriptures tell us the stories of your faithfulness—your faithfulness expressed through the gift of water.

In the time of Noah, you sent a cleansing flood which offered renewal;

through the sign of the rainbow, you gave us a covenant.

In the days of Moses, you led your people Israel out of Egypt through the waters of the sea;

through the parting of waters you gave them freedom.

In the waters of the Jordan, Jesus was baptized and proclaimed as your son;

through the waters of the river, you gave us new life.

Through the baptism of his death and resurrection, you set us free.

Pour out your Holy Spirit upon this water, that it may be a sign and seal of your abundant grace.

May the ones who passes through this water find new birth.

May we know that we are cleansed and redeemed, washed and claimed.

May these waters move us all from sin to righteousness as we seek to live as your faithful people.

All praise, honor, and glory to you, O God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, One God who lives and reigns forever. Amen.

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