Isaiah 43:1-7; Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
Today is the baptism of the Lord Sunday. We commemorate the baptism of Jesus, that he received from John the Baptist in the Jordan River. At the baptism, God spoke from heaven: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” In the baptism of God’s children, God says the same, “You are my children, the beloved. With you I am well pleased.”
Modern days’ baptism is often associated with the hefty series of religious instruction about faith, responsibility, commitment, and interrogation by the session. Why do we have such a complex process of baptism these days? There was a time when baptism took place at the first hearing of the gospel; however, we no longer perform an instant baptism. Why not?
Presbyterian seminarians are being taught to say, “For reasons of order, Baptism shall be authorized by the session” (W-2.3011). A gentler approach is to point out how wonderful every baptism is—like a wedding. We want to invite family and friends. Baptism is an important event for the whole congregation, for everyone in attendance renews their vow of baptism.
Our first lesson contains words that shed light on what happens at baptism. God says to Israel, “O Israel. Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”
The prophet here is speaking to those who were taken captive by the Babylonians in the sixth century BCE. They are prisoners of war with no land, no country, and no future. In such a time as this, the prophet comes on the horizon of history to speak to the generation of despair. God has come to claim us as His own. We use the same word to describe baptism: God claims us.
The word claim is from a Latin root that simply means ‘cry out’ or ‘call’ or ‘declare aloud.’ In baptism, God claims: God is calling us. God declares loud and clear that we belong to God.
Also, to claim, is “to demand . . . on the ground of right.” A claim cannot be done without right. God has the basis of claim. God redeemed us.
Like parents who claim their children, God who claims us will take care of us. Troubles will come, but God will not let them overwhelm us. God will be our shield from all hurts of life. The prophet says, “Sometimes you will walk through fire.” We will experience heat. We will feel the pricking on our body, but “you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” We may face all kinds of situations, but we will persist beyond all expectations.
God claimed us as God’s own through baptism.
(c) Rev. Jin Han, 2013