New Year's Day
Begin with the Baptism Scene for “O Brother Where Art Thou”
That movie has become one of my favorite movies. And I particularly love that scene. As you watch the scene unfold you see the human need, the tugging of the heart and spirit as Delmar sees and recognizes the baptismal procession. He instinctively recognizes his need for spiritual cleansing and renewal. And he acts upon it.
And then there’s that last line of invitation, “Come on in, boys, the water’s fine!”
I love that. Every time we celebrate and someone is baptized, that’s the invitation from God, “Come On In, the Water’s Fine!”
Every time we have one of those moments where our lives are renewed through a fresh outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit, that’s the invitation from God, “Come On In, the Water’s Fine!” For those who have already been baptized it’s an invitation to remember and be renewed. For those who haven’t been baptized, it’s an invitation to take the plunge. “Come On In, the Water’s Fine!”
There are times in our lives when it’s important to have a fresh outpouring of God’s Spirit. There are times when we need to remember our baptism and be renewed. As we study Scripture we find out that even Jesus, the Son of God, felt that need and was baptized. The Gospel of Luke describes it this way. Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 (NRSV)
 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah,
 John 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.
 His 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.”
 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened,
 and 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.”
Now,we may not hear the words God spoke to Jesus, but God is always pleased when someone takes the plunge. God is always pleased when we “Come to the Water” and dive in. God is always please when we remember our Baptism. And part of the reason God is pleased is because in Baptism we discover that Baptism Claims Us, Names Us and Aims Us.
I. BAPTISM CLAIMS US:
A. FIRST: Baptism Claims Us. It Claims us because Baptism is about what we believe.
And we believe that there are second chances in life; there are do-overs as the kids say. And Scripture confirms that. Our God is a God of second chances.
French writer Henri Barbusse (1874-1935) tells of a conversation overheard in a trench full of wounded men during the First World War. One of the men, who knew he only had minutes to live says to one of the other man, “Listen, Dominic, you’ve led a very bad life. Everywhere you are wanted by the police. But there are no convictions against me. My name is clear, so, here, take my wallet, take my papers, my identity, take my good name, my life and quickly, hand me your papers that I may carry all your crimes away with me in death.” (1)
That’s exactly what Jesus did for us on the cross. He offers us His identity and claims us as His own. And something wonderful happens to us.When we receive the waters of our baptism, we claim that identity for ourselves. We publicly declare our intention to strive to be like Jesus and follow God’s will for our lives. Baptism is one of those pivotal moments in our life of faith. We may not know where God will lead us but we know that our lives and our identities are changed. Baptism enables and empowers us to do the things that Jesus wants us to do here and now.
Jesus claims us and we identify with Jesus because He was baptized. We’re able to love as He loved. That kind of identification shapes what we believe and claims us. BAPTISM CLAIMS US.
II. BAPTISM NAMES US:
A. SECONDLY: Baptism Names Us, and tells us who we are.
My oldest son told me that The Ticket, one of the sports radio stations in Dallas, use to refer to useless people as spares. When I first heard that I laughed. But in reflecting on that, I realized that we need to remember in the Kingdom of God there are no spares, there are no useless people. There are no extras. There are no outsiders. Each and everyone of us is a child of God whom God loves as if we were God’s only child.
Baptism reminds us of that. Every time someone answers the invitation, “Come On In, the Water’s Fine!” We hear the voice of God saying: “This is my beloved child, with whom I am well pleased.”
I’ve always thought it curious that we call this container with water for Baptism a Baptismal Font. Especially, now, in this high tech world in which we live. Anyone with a computer and word processor knows what fonts are. They are the style of the characters in our word processors. Times New Roman, Helvetica, Courier, Signboard, Storybook and the like.
Our Baptismal Font really comes from the word fount. Short for fountain. But I got to thinking about the use of the word Font. Baptism is God’s watermark in our lives. God’s seal of approval. The FONT is God’s signature. The ink of that signature is the water of our baptism, the water that washes us clean. The water into which we were plunged, the water that was sprinkled on our hearts to make us clean, the water that was poured out upon us, like the spirit.
As a consequence we are the carriers of God’s message of redemption and second chances in the world. We are God’s walking signboards, carrying the message of God for all to see and hear. The Font of Baptism is used to write who we are on our hearts. It’s God’s autograph and it says we are a child of God, a designer original. Baptism Names Us, and tells us who we are.
But it also tells the world who we are and who they can be.
III. BAPTISM AIMS US:
A. Baptism Claims Us, Baptism Names Us, and Baptism Aims us. Baptism tells us what we are called to do. And we are called to reach out with the Good News in what we say and how we live our daily lives. Our lives become a witness for Christ as we strive to live as Jesus taught. Our lives are meant to be a living invitation to “Come to the Water.”
When we’re Baptized, we are Aimed outward. We are Aimed toward the world and called to reach out in love with the Good News of second chances through God’s Grace.
We may never know what impact we might have simply by striving to live as Jesus taught. We can let the signature of God, written on our heart with the Baptismal Font, be exhibited through the love of Jesus lived out and shared in our every day life.
It could like a high school English teacher here in Texas that I heard about. A few days before the start of a new school year one of her former students visited her in her classroom. She did not recognize the young man who knelt down beside her to thank her for all she had done for him.
“I have a good job, a wonderful wife, and two little girls,” he told this former teacher proudly. She desperately wanted to remember who he was, but she couldn’t. Over the years there had been so many students that she lost track. He told her, “I came to tell you that I graduated from high school because of you. I knew you loved me when I was your student because you would walk around the room while you lectured, and you would stop at my desk and put your hand on my shoulder.”
This teacher made a world of difference in the life of this young man. “When you returned my papers and they weren’t very good, you always wrote something encouraging.”
This young man’s high school years were very difficult. He told her that his father had shot and killed his mother in a drunken argument. “The other teachers acted as if they despised me,” he said, “but you kept on treating me as if I was somebody. I wanted to thank you for loving me. It’s made all the difference in my life.”
This teacher hadn’t known anything about that tragedy. She had simply tried to live out her faith in how she tuaght. She loved all of her students. But because the love of Christ, the love of God had Aimed her outward, this young man’s life had been changed. (2)
Baptism Aims us and tells us what we are called to do. It allows us to reach out to others with the same love and hope Jesus has shared with us.
There was a multimillionaire businessman, known for his extravagance, who hosted an elaborate, spectacular summer party. Part of his decorations and part of the uniqueness of his party was that he had filled his swimming pool with sharks, barracuda and other assorted dangerous fish.
After dinner had been served and everyone was just standing around looking at the assortment of dangerous sea life. The business man announced to his guests that he would like to challenge any of them to try swimming across the pool. And to sweeten the challenge he offered a first prize of either a new home in the mountains, a trip around the world for two or a piece of his business.
No sooner had he made the announcement than there was a splash and a man swam rapidly across the infested waters and bounded up out on the other side. The millionaire turned to the sputtering young man, shaking water off of himself and said: “That was an absolutely stunning performance. What prize do you want?”
With a growl and a scowl the swimmer said: “Right now I really don’t care about the prize. All I want is the name of the turkey who pushed me in.” (3)
I can assure you that the water of our baptism is safe, it’s not filled with sharks, barracudas and other dangerous sea life. I can also pretty much guarantee that should you take the plunge, accept Christ and be baptized, you probably won’t get a new home in the mountains or a trip around the world for two. But I can promise that you will get a piece of the business, God’s business. Kingdom business. The business of Redemption and Second Chances through Christ.
Baptism and Remembering our Baptism, CLAIMS US, NAMES US AND AIMS.
Show clip 2, O Brother, Where Are Thou, “Come on in, boys, the water’s fine.”
In just a few minutes you will have the opportunity to Remember You Baptism as we celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Communion together. But before we do that, let’s pray.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. Phil Bloom “A New Identity”
2. Jane and Robert Handly, The Life Plus Program for Getting Unstuck (New York: Rawson Associates, 1989), pp. 56-57.
3. Parables, Etc. (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), May 1984