Sermon Message for Saturday, January 28, 2023 & Sunday, January 29, 2023
Prayer For Illumination: Ever-loving God, whose Word is life, and whose touch brings healing and salvation, make your Word real to us now. Speak your presence in our hearts and lives, that we may know the reality of your grace, and bear it to others in your name. Amen.
Scripture Lessons: Matthew 5:1-12 (page 968) and Galatians 3:26,27 (page 1169)
Sermon Message: “The Blessings of Baptism”
Basic to our Christian faith is baptism. We affirm baptism to be a sacrament because it is sacred. Jesus Christ was baptized. God the Father was pleased. God blessed Jesus when he was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. Perhaps you recall the story of Jesus’ baptism from the Bible? Jesus, who was without sin, presented himself to John the Baptist to be baptized in the Jordan River. John initially resisted, for he felt Jesus should be baptizing him, not the other way around. John complied and baptized Jesus that day in the Jordan River. When Jesus arose from the waters of baptism, the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove, from heaven. Then an audible voice from heaven, the voice of God the Father, spoke declaring and affirming, “This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Further consider the blessing of baptism for Jesus Christ. He fulfilled the Father’s will. He pleased the Father. He was blessed by receiving the Holy Spirit. God spoke to him. A further blessing of Jesus’ baptism was that of setting an example, a holy and sacred example, of how we can and should please God. When we obey God, we are blessed.
Today, we baptized little Reese to the glory of God. Her baptism included water, prayer, love and anointing in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Today, Jesus Christ sent the Holy Spirit and completed this Sacrament of Baptism anointing her soul and touching her life.
Jesus received the blessings of baptism. He was anointed with water. The Holy Spirit further entered him, touched him, and began guiding him even more. Today we trust God’s Holy Spirit will further touch and guide this precious little girl whose baptism we witnessed and shared.
Baptism is a blessing in heaven and on earth. Heaven ‘sees’ when baptism takes place.
A further blessing of baptism is becoming aware that one of the nearest and dearest things to heaven is a child.
Jesus taught us that we must become ‘as a child’ in our faith if we are to receive the kingdom of heaven. Today’s scripture lesson affirms “In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians 3:26,27)
Children need to be taught ‘the basics’ about God, faith, and religion. Adults need to become ‘child-like’ in our sincerity, dedication, and love. Today’s message applies to all ‘children of God.’
The Old Testament book of Proverbs is full of Godly wisdom. For instance, Proverbs 22:6 conveys this wisdom, “Start children off in the way they should go and even when they are older, they will not turn from it.”
Someone somewhere conveyed such Godly wisdom to this family that brought their child here today to be baptized.
The things you were taught when you were a child are still with you. Part of ‘the way you should go’ is still leading and guiding your lives. ‘Things’ such as the Ten Commandments. Things such as the narratives of the birth of Jesus Christ, his baptism, his teachings, his life with us, his suffering upon the cross, his death, and oh yes, his resurrection. You see, Jesus lives still inside our hearts and souls. He taught us what it is to have a more blessed life.
Some of the ‘basics’ Jesus taught us and we glean from the Bible are the Beatitudes. These teachings of Jesus remind us of how we are blessed.
At first glance we might think “oh, not so much!” Blessed are the poor, those who mourn, the meek, and those who hunger for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and those who are persecuted. Most folks never ‘long’ to be poor. Nor do we look forward to mourning, becoming ‘meek’ and so on.
Sometimes we understand the word ‘blessed’ to mean merely an expression of good wishes. For Christians the word ‘blessed’ is most often defined as divine favor either received or invoked upon oneself or another.
I know some folks believe ‘blessed’ means having more material things than you can possibly use or consume. That’s mostly a human definition attempting to be applied to a spiritual truth and teaching.
God’s truth remains; we are blessed to be a blessing.
A funny and peculiar example of this: we have been experiencing this ‘rain changing to snow’ kind of weather and back again. At our house I insist on putting down a lot of ice melt on our approaching sidewalks and driveway. I just don’t want to fall, you see. So, I walk cautiously when I go outside and when I return inside. I kick my shoes off near the entryway door. If I happen to come in through our garage, some of the ice melt and slush tends to follow me. Poor Patty! To make matters worse, I sometimes wear a different set of shoes or boots because the others are now wet. Every once in a while, my beloved will get kind of exasperated and say something like “O Thomas you’re getting quite a collection of shoes here!” OR, “I just cleaned that floor!” She’s not too pleased when I come back at her with, “But Patty, I am your blessing! Remember you prayed for me. Here I am, the answer to your prayers. Your blessing dear!”
That’s probably not so much what Jesus was referencing when he met with his disciples and shared these blessings of his, what we still refer to as the Beatitudes. Pay attention to the basics of our faith. Read, review, and further ‘digest’ these faith basics known as the Beatitudes. Upon first review, these particular teachings of Jesus may seem like some sort of upside-down sermon. Blessed are the poor (in spirit), those who mourn, the meek, and so on.
These ‘blessings’ of Jesus, commonly known as ‘the Beatitudes,’ are not primarily prescriptions of how we ought to behave. Rather, they are declarations of blessedness for those who don’t feel blessed. Jesus pronounces grace on those who need it. When God sees you poor, mourning, meek, and so on, Jesus proclaims God sees and will seek to bless you towards a much greater ultimate reality.
Sometimes God’s ‘blessings’ are far different than our expectations.
A few years back, some of you might remember, I was quite honored to baptize here in our church, several of our grandchildren plus my son-in-law. The time was so meaningful to Patty and me. Afterwards, when we went home for Sunday dinner, I thanked my family for the honor and the sacred reality of sharing in Christian baptism. My dear son-in-law spoke to me stating he didn’t really ‘feel’ anything when he was baptized. There was no dove from heaven or voice of God from behind the clouds. We all lovingly smiled and shared with him that’s not the blessings of baptism we should anticipate. For Jesus, yes; for us, no.
Part of the blessings of baptism is knowing our souls are well identified and dedicated unto God. Baptism remains a sacrament, for it is sacred. In the waters of baptism Jesus further identified with the will, the wisdom, and the way of God. Jesus, in being baptized, dedicated himself, his life, further to God the Father. As we baptize children and adults, as we reaffirm our own baptismal vows, we also are identifying further with God, with Jesus, and the dedicated life of faith. The blessing of baptism conveys the touch, the presence of God’s Spirit in our lives. We belong to God. O the blessing of being baptized. Baptism remains basic and essential to the Christian faith.
Jesus teaches us something more regarding ‘blessings.’ These blessings, the Beatitudes, are not for everybody. They are for disciples, for people who are serious about following God and living the Christian life. Without a heart for Jesus, these Beatitudes make very little sense.
Blessed are poor (in spirit), who realize their utter dependence upon God, for that dependence brings us closer to God’s heart. Think about the times when you simply didn’t have much to go on. Much faith, much hope, much love, much help, much security, much money, and so on. Didn’t you find it was precisely during such times, such ‘dependent upon God times’ that you felt blessed, O so blessed to know God and share your dependence upon Him? The poor in spirit get caught up in their doubts and struggle to find a way out. It’s sometimes a struggle to overcome damage done to us by those who should have loved us. It can make a soul feel bankrupt before God. Jesus says such poor souls are blessed because God has compassion on them and ultimately shows them the abundance of the kingdom of heaven and a better way.
Blessed are those who mourn. Typically, we associate ‘mourning’ with death, the passing of a loved one. Also included in mourning are children who grow up without a significant parent in their life. Or possibly that single parent left with the sincere and immense responsibility of rearing children alone. In our surrounding area, we are aware of churches that having struggled for years and finally had to close their doors. We tend to ‘mourn’ for various reasons and causes. Each of us mourns. We cannot go through life without our losing someone or something important to us. Some express their grief. Others cry alone. If we dare to love, there is no avoiding loss and sadness.
God sees and God cares. God blesses us in our deep, deep sadness, for it is in that sadness that God can touch, fill, and comfort us. Sadness and sorrow can utterly empty one’s soul. When some inkling presence of God comes within those times, it begins to fill us, often times to hope which overflows.
Blessed are the meek for when we are most limited in our earthiness and finiteness, it is in this felt humility that we find abundance from God. Make no mistake; ‘meekness’ is NOT the same as weakness. The ‘meek’ are those who quietly submit themselves to God and are gentle towards all. Sometimes it seems as though the only thing the meek of this world inherit is an inferiority complex. Meek people are often overlooked, disregarded. Jesus says it won’t always be that way. The bullies, the strong, and belligerent might push their way to the top, but ultimately God will have God’s way. God will reverse the fortunes, the plight of the meek.
Choose to believe these teachings from Jesus, and your attitude towards life will become blessed. Be ‘baptized’ further into God’s blessings, his amazing grace. Become a part of baptism blessings by giving life to others instead of taking so much. We are children of God, and in essence, we are called to ‘take after’ our heavenly Father.
Blessings come to us in a lot of different ways. After we sneeze someone might say, ‘God Bless You.’ The beauty of nature, and the innocence of a child bless us. We are further ‘blessed’ by the good things of life and the love of family and friends. God’s Blessings are no ‘magic potion.’ Nor are they to be measured and acquainted with having more material things than you can possibly use or consume.
God’s Blessings take the gloomiest of realities and enable them to become the most glorious of rewards.
Blessed are you. Amen.