Every year the Church celebrates the Baptism of Our Lord Sunday. Jesus’ baptism is found in all four of the Gospels: Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-23; and John 1:29-24. Each shares the story a little differently. The one thing all four have in common is the description of the Holy Spirit descending from heaven like a dove.
During baptism we pray, “Pour your Holy Spirit upon [Name of the person being baptized], the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge, and the fear of the Lord, the spirit of joy in your presence. Amen.”
This is followed by the Cross of Christ stating, “[Name of the person being baptized], child of God, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever. Amen.”
On this Sunday, you are invited to remember your baptism. We will celebrate both sacraments, baptism and communion. As you come to the table for communion you will have the opportunity to stop at the font and remember your baptism.
Martin Luther pointed out that you should do so daily saying, “When you wash your face remember your baptism.”
In preparation, I thought it appropriate to share Luther’s explanation of the Sacrament of Holy Baptism from his small catechism. He has the style of asking a question and then sharing the answer. Many of us had to memorize the Small Catechism. A challenge for you to answer it in Luther’s Word, but more importantly for you to be able to explain it in your own words.
The Sacrament of Holy Baptism, Martin Luther*
What is Baptism?
Answer: Baptism is not simple water only, but it is the water comprehended in God's command and connected with God's Word.
Which is that word of God?
Answer: Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Matthew: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
What benefits does God give in Baptism?
Answer: In Baptism, God forgives sin, delivers from death and the devil, and gives everlasting salvation to all who believe what he has promised.
What is God’s Promise?
Answer: In Mark 16 our Lord Jesus It is not water that does these things, but God’s Word with the water and our trust in this Word. Water by itself is only water, but with the Word of God it is a life-giving water which by grace gives the new birth through the Holy Spirit.
St. Paul writes in Titus 3: “He saved us…in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life. The saying is sure.”
What does Baptism mean for daily living?
Answer: It means that our sinful self, with all its evil deeds and desires, should be drowned through daily repentance, and that day after day a new self should arise to live with God in righteousness and purity forever.
St. Paul writes in Romans 6: “We were buried therefore with him by Baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
*Source: The Small Catechism, by Martin Luther. Augsburg Fortress. 1979
Baptism is not a one and done life insurance policy, but a gift that is to be shared with others as Jesus shared, “Let your light shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16.
We do that by living out the baptism call:
Read the Bible.
Know the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments.
Trust God and proclaim Christ through word and deed.
Care of God’s creation, including all people.
Note that these responses are not a prerequisite to be baptized, instead they are a response to having been welcomed, washed, and filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. May we forever remember to walk wet. Amen.