Sunday’s sermon: Named and Claimed

baptism

Texts used – Isaiah 12; Galatians 3:23-29

  • This past week, Peter and the kids and I did something really exciting: we went out and bought … a tree!
    • Reason for buying the tree: just needed a little something extra in our backyard
    • Did a little research (meaning: talked to Lance)
    • Thursday Night Adventure (“adventure” being tree-buying at Sargent’s and a trip to Costco that included dinner!)
    • And let me let you all in on a little secret about being married to a science teacher: you learn a lot more than you ever even imagined you might want to know no matter where you go!
      • Peter’s questions to the tree guy
      • Grafting: technique when you take tissue from one plant and join it to tissue from another plant so they can continue to grow together as one
        • Upper part = scion
        • Lower part = rootstock
      • Nursery guy: nursery trees are actually branches of a variety of trees grafted onto rootstocks of other trees (not necessarily the same species) → They do this because they want the rootstock to be healthy and hearty and strong. So there could be a whole bunch of different kinds of trees – oaks, maples, aspens, even crabapples – grafted onto the same kind of rootstock because that’s what will make them grow the strongest and truest. That’s what will help those trees grow to their greatest potential.
    • Friends, that is why we’re here this morning. Today is a joyful day in the life of the church because today, we get to celebrate a baptism. – baptism = essentially being grafted onto the body of Christ
      • Book of Order, “Theology of Baptism”: Baptism enacts and seals what the Word proclaims: God’s redeeming grace offered to all people. Baptism is at once God’s gift of grace, God’s means of grace, and God’s call to respond to that grace. … Baptism is the bond of unity in Jesus Christ. When we are baptized, we are made one with Christ, with one another, and with the Church of every time and place.[1]
  • Hard to pick Scripture readings for this morning because there are so many places in the Bible that talk about the power and significance of baptism
    • Story of Jesus’ own baptism in the River Jordan when God comes down in the form of a Holy Spirit dove and proclaims, “This is my son whom I dearly love; I find happiness in him.”[2]
    • Great Commission at the end of Mt’s gospel (Jesus to the disciples): Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.[3]
    • Plethora of times that Paul talks about the significance of baptism → just about every letter Paul wrote to any group of believers
    • OT passage often used for baptism: But now, says the LORD— the one who created you, Jacob, the one who formed you, Israel: Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; when through the rivers, they won’t sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you won’t be scorched and flame won’t burn you. I am the LORD your God, the holy one of Israel, your savior.[4] → So says the prophet Isaiah. “I have called you by name; you are mine.” Let those words sink in for a minute, friends. “I have called you by name; you are mine.” Mine … mine … mine. Is there a more possessive word in the English language?
      • Only claim something as “mine” when it’s really important, really precious to us
        • Something you’ve worked hard for
        • Something you’ve long desired
        • Something near and dear and precious to your heart
        • Something you would fight for in a heartbeat
          • My family
          • My friends
          • My home
          • My career
          • My church
      • Opening passage from Isaiah says explicitly that this is exactly what God has said to us: I have called you by name; you are mine. → Let that sink in for a minute. You have been claimed by the One who created the heavens and the earth and everything in them. You have been claimed by the One who had the imaginative beauty and creativity to invent waterfalls and volcanoes and rainbows and platypuses. You have been claimed by the One who breathed life into clay and named it “human” and called it good. You have been claimed by One whose love surpasses anything you can ever imagine or hope to receive anywhere else. You have been claimed by One who is both mighty and powerful and yet tender and attentive enough to know each and every one of us by name. “I have called you by name; you are mine.”
        • Love and tenderness and openness of the way that God claims in baptism always makes me think of a poem by Irish poet W.B. Yeats:

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.[5]

  • In naming and claiming us in baptism, God lays out dreams for us to follow – hopes and dreams for our future, for our faith formation, for our participating in God’s work of grace and love and justice in this world. Sometimes we forget how truly precious a gift this is, and we stumble and trample and even stomp upon those dreams. But sometimes we remember. We remember what a blessing it truly is to be named and claimed as a Beloved Child of God. And when we remember, we rejoice and give thanks.
    • Hear this echoed in other passage from Is that we read this morning – text: God is indeed my salvation; I will trust and won’t be afraid. Yahweh, the Lord, is my strength and my shield; he has become my salvation. You will draw water with joy from the springs of salvation. … Sing to the Lord, who has done glorious things.[6]
      • And today, we get to celebrate Julia being named and claimed by this One – this holy one of Israel, everlasting God of all.
  • “God of all” = critical element of baptism → reason I chose NT passage from Galatians
    • Text: You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. All of you who were baptized into Christ has clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.[7] → one of the most powerful marks and purpose of baptism = It is completely and wholly indiscriminate. No matter who you are, no matter how you are baptized, through this holy sacrament, you become grafted onto the body of Christ. You are named and claimed as one of God’s children. Period. Full stop. No qualifiers allowed.
      • Great meme on FB this week – 2 doughnut pictures side-by-side

doughnuts meme

      • Book of Order: In Christ, barriers of race, status, and gender are overcome; we are called to seek reconciliation in the Church and world, in Jesus’ name. … Unity is God’s gift to the Church in Jesus Christ. Just as God is one God and Jesus Christ is our one Savior, so the Church is one because it belongs to its one Lord, Jesus Christ. The Church seeks to include all people and is never content to enjoy the benefits of Christian community for itself alone.[8]
      • Also speaks to what I love about how Presbyterians do godparents → You all – all of you here today – are considered Julia’s godparents in the church. You all are already playing a part in her growing up. You will all play a part in her being raised and nurtures and love in faith. In this church, we recognize and believe in a priesthood of all believers meaning that you don’t have to be specially ordained to any particular office to share your faith with others and to let your own spiritual journey impact and inform someone else.
        • Book of Order: God pours out the gifts of the Holy Spirit upon each Christian in Baptism, and all are called to use these gifts for the glory of God. Therefore it is appropriate for any member of the church to pray, read Scripture, or assist in worship in other ways according to his or her gifts.[9]
  • And so it is with great joy – joy in celebrating Julia being named and claimed as well as joy in remembering and honoring our own baptisms when God named and claimed us as Beloveds … it is with great joy that we come to the font. Hear again the words from the prophet Isaiah this morning – text: You will say on that day: “I thank you, Lord. Though you were angry with me, your anger turned away and you comforted me. God is indeed my salvation; I will trust and won’t be afraid. Yahweh, the Lord, is my strength and my shield; he has become my salvation.” You will draw water with joy from the springs of salvation. And you will say on that day: “Thank the Lord; call on God’s name; proclaim God’s deeds among the peoples; declare that God’s name is exalted. Sing to the Lord, who has done glorious things; proclaim this throughout all the earth.” Shout and sing for joy, city of Zion, because the holy one of Israel is great among you. → Friends, as we come to the font with Julia this morning, we come with joy. We come to this wellspring of salvation thanking God for that everlasting and eternal grace that washes over us all and welcomes us into this blessed family of faith. Alleluia! Amen.

 

[1] W-3.0402 in The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Part II: The Book of Order, 2017-2019 ed. (Louisville, KY: The Office of the General Assembly), 2017.

[2] Mt 3:17.

[3] Mt 28:19-20.

[4] Is 43:1-3a.

[5] W.B. Yeats. “Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven,” https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/aedh-wishes-cloths-heaven.

[6] Is 12:2-3, 5.

[7] Gal 3:26-28.

[8] W-3.0402, F-1.0302a in The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Part II: The Book of Order, 2017-2019 ed. (Louisville, KY: The Office of the General Assembly), 2017.

[9] W-2.0301 in The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Part II: The Book of Order, 2017-2019 ed. (Louisville, KY: The Office of the General Assembly), 2017.

[10] W-3.0402 in The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Part II: The Book of Order, 2017-2019 ed. (Louisville, KY: The Office of the General Assembly), 2017.

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