Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"Baptism" Sermon 11/09/2008

Sermon for 11/09/2008, First Lutheran Church of Trinity, Chicago.
Thomas R Gaulke, MDiv
Special Occassion: Affirmation of Baptism/New Member Welcomed


Baptism is a revolutionary act.

In baptism, by using some water and some words, we act out God’s radical, irrational, and unfailing love for all of Creation.
A love that breaks unexpectedly and dramatically into our lives and our communities.
A love that is meant to change us forever.

In the ritual of baptism we are asked radically to reject sin, reject evil, and reject the devil.
That is, in baptism, we say a loud and clear “NO” to all the empty promises that stem from any institution
or any social group or any individual
that profits from the suffering or the exclusion of others,
we say NO to any system that holds human sisters and brothers down
in order to lift others up.

Baptism is a covenantal ritual in which we,
people of faith,
make a promise to God and to one another,
and are given the difficult and serious responsibility
to challenge disharmony and hypocrisy—
both in the world and in the church.

(And we promise to do so in a Spirit of humility, of meekness, and of love.)


The Sacrament of Baptism calls us to public declaration:

Despite those who compete for our loyalties, our faith, our social identities, and those who compete for our political allegiance,

Baptism declares boldly that our ultimate loyalty is to God
Our ultimate citizenship is citizenship in God’s Kingdom,
& Our ultimate identity is as God’s daughters and sons,

In declaring Jesus as Lord,
We see full well that the kingdoms, the nations, and the commonwealths of human beings,
(though they sometimes may be changing for the better—and even making history),
Are still a far cry from the vision we received from Jesus
and from the prophets who came before him.


Baptism is violent.

In the act of baptizing says Paul in Romans,
We act out the death of our old self,
Drowning our sinful, oppressive, selfish, prejudiced, and hateful ways,

And emerging from the depths to have our lungs filled
not with the stale air of an unjust and merciless world,
but with God’s Spirit of freedom and Life.
In baptism, we are freed from our selves to love God.
We are freed from ourselves to love our neighbors without reserve.


In baptism, again says St. Paul
[in Colossians and in Galatians],
Barriers of class, race, gender, nationality, morality, and religious denomination are overcome, broken down, and even made irrelevant:

There is no longer Greek or Jew, Presbyterian or Lutheran,
slave or free, rich or poor,
there is no holy or unholy, sinner or saint,
no Chinese, no German, no American; no Israeli or Palestinian,
no gay or straight,
no republican or democrat.
Because all of these, says scripture, are made one,

In baptism,
All are claimed.
All are and named.
All receive God’s promise.
Not because of what they have done.
Not because of what they own.
Not because of what they believe,

Not because they are an infant
or because they are laying in a hospital bed breathing their last breaths.

Not by any merit of their own (says Luther),
Not by any merit of our own.
But through the Grace of God,
Through a gift of unconditional Love,
And undiscriminating forgiveness,
By a God who breaks down the barriers and labels that the world would force and fling upon us…

Not because we chose God, but because God chooses us.

And the God of Baptism, is a God who says:

You are not less than anyone else.
You are not unworthy of love.
You are not unworthy of life.
You are not too full of sin or too imperfect.
You are not too stupid.
You have not done anything beyond my forgiveness.

The God of Baptism is a God who says:

You are not too “ethnic”
You are not too mid-western
You are not too screwed-up.

You are not too old.
You are not too young.
You are not too addicted.

Your skin is not the wrong color.

You are not too fat.

You are too skinny.

You are not too poor.

You don’t have the wrong accent.
You don’t speak the wrong language.

You are not too crazy.


You are not too anything-at-all.


The God of Baptism is a God who says:

I made you.
I love you.
As you are.
I love you unconditionally.
I love you. Always.
Regardless of any event or circumstance past, present, or future.
I love you.

You are my daughter.
You are my Son.
You are my Child.
You are a Child of God.
I love you.

This is the declaration that is made in our baptism by God.
This is the declaration which we celebrate today.


Romans Chapter 8 and 9 read:
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. I am speaking the truth in Christ -- I am not lying.

“Sisters and Brothers,” says the Priest or the Pastor—or whoever it might be—at our baptisms,
“You are a child of God, And you, ________ Child of God,
have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.”


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