Friday, January 18, 2013

We Are: Baptized

 We are Entering a year with Luke's story of Jesus.   
It’s good for us to remember that a gospel is Not history but HIS-story, 
It is God's story of being with us, 
A theo story, the God-Jesus story, theo-HIS-story.
Jesus’ Baptism shows us a moment where ‘heaven touches earth’ as Luke narrates it.  
the Holy Spirit came down on him in bodily form like a dove.
Adding spirit-story to theo-his-story.

Jesus’ story really Begins with his baptism. In spite of the emphasis we put on the Christmas event, his ministry begins at the event we celebrate today.

Baptism wasn’t that common in Jesus’ time, but it was used in Jewish history as a ritual of cleansing or a related rite. 
John’s baptism followed on this vein when he announced a baptism of repentance.

Scholars have debated why Jesus, the holy one, would need to repent. 

Pic of Jesus baptism - #1 - Murillo 1655
We won’t get into the many theological debates surrounding Jesus’ baptism nor the differing theologies of what baptism means. We will stick to Brethren understandings of baptism and its importance. 
We also don’t know whether there was dunking or pouring involved in Jesus’ day. (River level?) Certainly the artists of different eras used not only the scriptures, but their own experience of baptisms they had seen.

Pic of Jesus baptism - #2 - Andrea del Sarto, 1524

Robert Brearley says, Jesus’ baptism was 'an act of solidarity with a world of sinners'. I like that explanation
 of why Jesus would choose John’s baptism of repentence.
Another scholar, Carol Hess writes in a similar manner. She interprets Jesus’ baptism as a visual of the interconnectedness of humanity shown by Jesus’ connection with all humans including sinners.

He not only ‘gets in line’
 to be baptized with everyone else who needs to repent, he spends his life with the people who need him most. - everyone, especially those called ‘sinners’.

Another oic - Here’s a more modern interpretation of baptism.

When we encounter Jesus’ baptism, many of us recall our own. Brethren usually have good stories of baptism because those of us raised in Anabaptist traditions were baptized at an age old enough to remember our ‘dunking’.

So let’s hear 1 or 2 stories?

Brethren baptism pics:

#1 an older image

Henry Fork CoB

#2 a more modern river baptism
Eder River

#3 Eder River, 
 In August 1708 five men and three women gathered at the Eder River in Schwarzenau for baptism, an illegal act since all had been baptized as infants. They understood this baptism as an outward symbol of their new faith and as a commitment to living that faith in community
An anonymous member of the group first baptized Mack. He, in turn, baptized the other seven. This new group simply called themselves “brethren.”
Though the early Brethren shared many beliefs with other Protestants, a number of issues separated them from the state churches. Relying on the New Testament as their guide, these men and women believed that Jesus had intended for his followers a different kind of life—one based on peaceful action, plain and compassionate living, and a shared search for truth. They also shared their faith enthusiastically with others, sending evangelists to other parts of Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. (see

Anyone who was baptized here?

I thought it important for us to recall our Brethren roots during these Sundays of Epiphany. Shed light...into our HIS-story by adding in our memories and understandings of God’s story that continues to work in us.
ACOB’s Theo-HIS-story  

Beginning story of Acob for 2013, it is appropriate to remember who we are. 
We are the baptized believers of Jesus, the Christ.

But what DOES that mean? 
David Lose says, “Baptism teaches us who we are – God’s beloved children – and confers upon us the promise of God’s unconditional regard.”

What Brethren believe about baptism

1. Response to God - important to remember that God acts, we respond. Altho it feels like we are doing something when we get baptized, the real work is God’s. In baptism God claims us in a special way that makes us part of a family, one that we call the BODY of Christ.
Another David Lose quote that seems just perfect:
Our relationship with God, is the one relationship in life we can’t screw up precisely because we did not establish it. We can neglect this relationship, we can deny it, run away from it, ignore it, but we cannot destroy it, for God loves us too deeply and completely to ever let us go.(6)

2. Act of obedience - Why do we get baptized? B/c Jesus did.
3. Symbol of new life, outward sign of inward change - (like 1st brethren) we are a new creation, not b/c WE’ve done it, b/c God makes us new as we take in God’s gift of the HS
4. Public - witness of our covenant w/God. Done in a worship service because its not just Our individual story, it’s OUR theo-story w/ HIS-story making us Christ’s body!
5. Initiation into church, membership, only way to get in. (Accept letter means you’ve been baptized elsewhere and we recognize it.)
6. Ordination into ministry, not just set-apart ministers, but everyone is a minister from the moment of baptism, on.
7. It’s a BEGINNING  THE beginning of our story. We aren’t DONE when we get baptized it’s just the start.

I rather like Diana Butler Bass’ summary (Christianity after Religion) 
 of how we SHOULD bring people into the community of Christ. She says, like Jesus’ disciples, first we should BELONG, by following him, Jesus.
Then, as we follow, we will BEHAVE differently because we learn to imitate him and live his teachings
And eventually, maybe years later, we will begin to understand what we BELIEVE.

Some times it feels like we ask too much of candidates for baptism. Because we do take vows. Still even as we promise in the water on a particular day, we know that we will GROW into those promises and understandings as we grow in likeness to Christ.

These vows, are promises (like marriage or life-partnership covenants ) - it takes all our lives to live into the understanding we have at the moment of baptism, because it IS a beginning.

Do you remember the baptism Vows? clk
Language can vary but there are basic statements posed as ?’s:
One is about Jesus, and who we understand him to be. I like the language, "the revealer of God's love and purpose for world"

Another is About ‘The Way’; the Jesus’ Way. It’s about our commitment to follow Jesus’ teaching and ALL the NT -- with God’s help.

***(Important Note, We don’t have a list of things we have to believe in. We don’t have a creed. We have a promise of how we will try to live, like Jesus did.)***

The last vow is about our promise to each other. 
Will you uphold the Church?
With your Prayers, Presence, Substance, Service.
Pic of our community from web hello -
“Baptism is not an individual matter but inclusion in renewed people of God.”

Our Living
His Church

Like Jesus, our baptism culminates with a prayer for holy spirit to ‘land’ on us. 

Has this been a good refresher or Too much info? 
Do you Feel like you’ve been in a class with one too many lists?

I think we will remember the stories, those we heard, Jesus’ story, the 1st Brethren, and our OWN story. 

I’ll give you an easy way to remember everything you need to know about baptism: ‘W’ hands
You need WATER (preferably lots of it)
WORDS, (important words about Jesus and his teaching),
even more important we need to WALK, the way Jesus did.

Its why we call it the Way, the Jesus Way    -

If you are baptized, I hope this worship service is a time of renewal of YOUR vows as you remember the time you waded in the water.

If you have not been baptized. . . as my father would quote from Acts, 
“Water is plentiful, what keeps YOU from being baptized?”

1 Robert Brearley Feasting on the Word Pastoral (Lousiville:WJK, 2009) ck page
2 Carol Hess, Feasting on the Word Theological (Lousiville:WJK, 2009) ck page

3 Brearley, above

4 David Lose,

5 FAWN 130-131
6 David Lose,
7 Boring and Craddock People’s NT Commentary  (Louisville: WJK, 2004) ck

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