Heavenly Father, at this time we would like to dedicate these young people to You as they choose to become members of Your intimate family through the sacrament of Baptism. Remember how You led Your chosen people out of Egypt by Your show of power at the waters of the Red Sea? Please show the same power for these boys tonight and protect them as You protect all your children. Remember how You led Your chosen people through the waters of the river Jordan to let them enter the Promised Land? please lead these boys through the trials and joys of life to the heaven You promise to those who follow Your way. Remember how You gave salvation to the world by the blood and water that flowed from Your son’s side on the cross? Please give the same salvation to thee boys as they enter the waters of baptism as Your adopted sons. Remember how You sent the Holy Spirit to Your close followers on Pentecost and gave them the courage to be brave Christians in their words and actions. Please send the same Holy Spirit into these boys tonight so that they can carry out Your teachings in their lives. Be with us all, Heavenly Father, so that we can also live out the power of our baptism in our own lives. Amen.”
No one present will ever forget that special moment. After the service this man, so sick, took all the boys baptized that evening for a celebration at McDonalds. It was this man’s last public appearance. Weeks later we would have his funeral.
What God Wants Us To Be
Obedience to God's Will
When Jesus was baptized it meant he was to be obedient to the will of the Father. It meant for him to live out the vision in the days that would follow. It isn't hard to stand at some altar and say: "Yes Lord I do love you. Yes Lord I will follow you always.” But saying and doing are sometimes poles apart. We all know that.
Once James Thurber told of his friend Ross who was always there, always counted on. And he said: "He just kept going like a bullet-torn battle flag and nobody captured his colors and nobody silenced his drums." This is what it means to be obedient. Like the song the missionary taught those in the village. This was the song he taught them:
“Go on, Go on, Go on, Go on,
Go on, Go on, Go on, Go on,
Go on, Go on, Go on, Go on.”
We Are Beloved
We learn from our Lord that to be baptized is to obey on good days and bad. But there is one more thing I see in this story.When Jesus was baptized, he heard God's voice saying: You are my beloved son. And it was this memory of a voice he heard on the day of his baptism that kept him going through all the hard things of his life. When the crowds came and pressed. When Judas and Peter denied . When he hung on the cross. He remembered that voice that told him who he was. He was God's beloved.
Baptism reminds us that we are God's beloved too. He gave his only son for the likes of us. That we should not perish--that we should have eternal life. Abundant life. Remember what his disciples there toward the end. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”(John 15.11) That we should not live our lives in someone else's shadow. That we need not try to be someone else. But we can simply come to terms with who we are and know that is a very good thing. We are beloved. Right now. Right here. We are beloved of God.
One of the great short story writers and poets of our time was a man named Raymond Carver. He had a hard life. Alcohol almost killed him. It did destroy his marriage, his relationship with his children--he lost years and years he could never recover. But later in life, he gave up drink, he sobered up, he met a young woman and they were married and he began to write again. And he began to discover some wonders about living and loving he had never known. But he developed lung cancer which would finally take his life. But the last poem he ever wrote was this:
"And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth."
Like Jesus, if we ever learn that we are of worth and infinite value to God it will do for us what it did for Jesus. It will take us every step of the way. And where he leads us we will follow...and we will go on and on and on because we will know it is good and right and true.
And so I would challenge you remember your baptism. Those vows you made to love him and serve him. I want you to think back on when it was. Remember your baptism. Recommit yourself to following this will of God. To learning once more what it means to obey. To discover, even as you go that you are beloved--beloved of God. And this is why, after all these years, we still baptize people when they declare their faith. “Happy day, happy day—when Jesus washed my sins away. He taught me how to watch and pray and live rejoicing every day—Happy day, happy day—when Jesus washed my sins away.”