Sermon. May 31. 2020
Rev. John Steitz
Are you willing to affirm your baptism?
Do you want to live into the call to be Jesus’ disciple?
Let’s explore that this means and how we going about doing it.
We are baptized once by we affirm and reaffirm our baptism again and again. Today we rejoice with Jason and Miranda as they affirm their baptism.
We use the format in the UCC Book of Worship. This is the format used by Christians around the world. The United Methodist Church, the Anglican Church in New Zealand, the United Church of Christ, and many others use the same words with only slight variation.
Pentecost Sunday celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles that marks the beginning of the Church. Jesus’ baptism recalls the coming of the Holy Spirit at the beginning of his ministry.
It is altogether fitting that we affirm our baptism on Pentecost Sunday. We are guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit as we affirm our baptism.
The several questions and affirmations resist the individualism of our culture. They are at once personal and collective. We are asked to affirm our baptism as persons but within the context of a broader community of faith. We do not do this alone.
The first affirmation asks if we desire to become part of the faith and family of Jesus Christ. This is at once a personal invitation and a reminder that we do not do this as soloists. We affirm our baptism into the Jesus Way community, the Jesus faith and family, the Church. We are affirmed as members of this family.
The second affirmation calls us to renounce the powers of evil. Sin is disconnection from God. The powers of evil are those forces that pull us to sin. Christ offers us freedom from the bondage of sin and the powers of evil. This freedom is new life in Christ.
To profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the third affirmation, is a confession of our hope for liberation. Too often the claim, “Jesus is my Lord and Savior” is offered as if it were an other worldly saying. A magic key to get into heaven.
It is actually a very down to earth liberation statement, a declaration of resistance to domination. We see this when we recall that the Roman emperor was hailed as lord and savior. To profess Jesus as Lord and Savior was to resist and defy Caesar.
Through the ages there have been many false lords, some who were kings and presidents, some that were systems. How many today make money their lord and savior? Professing Jesus as Lord and Savior liberates us from supremacist power systems and is a commitment to solidarity beyond domination.
Do you desire, do you renounce, do you profess. The first three affirmations ask us to make a public, personal commitment to Jesus Christ.
We then move into two baptismal promises that acknowledge that they can only be kept through God’s grace. We cannot keep these promises on our own power alone. Our affirmation is conditional on God’s help.
To be Christ’s disciple, to follow in the way of our Savior. This is a commitment to be active in the Jesus Way community. Everyday how we live our lives is informed and transformed by being Jesus’ disciple.
To resist oppression and evil, to show love and justice. We are moved by God’s grace to confront oppression and disrupt domination. When as a young man I encountered six women sharing their testimonies of abuse, assault and violence, this baptismal promise moved me beyond apathy to action. I did not do this on my own. I relied on God’s help and the help of a community.
We are now confronted by the reality of racist oppression in the lynching of George Floyd in Minneapolis this past week. Some of us will be moved to action. The actions we take are not political correctness. Our actions are rooted in our baptismal promise to resist oppression and evil, and to show love and justice. We can only keep these promises with God’s help. And we need the Holy Spirit to sustain us so that our commitment to love and justice is life long and not episodic.
To witness to the work and word of Jesus Christ. It is through our love – love for God, love for neighbor, love for one another, love for our enemy, that we become ambassadors for Christ, ministers of reconciliation. Love is our evangelism.
To grow in the Christian faith, to be a faithful member of Jesus’ church. We grow into discipleship as we commit ourselves to actions of liberation, solidarity, and love. We live into this commitment in community, the church of Jesus Christ.
We celebrate Christ’s presence and commit to Christ’s mission. We break bread together and know that Christ is present among us. We recognize that the church is not a building. The church is a mission post from which we are sent into the world to share God’s love.
To affirm our baptism as disciples of Jesus Christ is to focus our lives on the Jesus Way of Love. To affirm our baptism is to live our lives empowered by God’s grace to be spiritually alive, radically inclusive, and justice oriented.