As I was scrolling on Facebook, I stumbled upon a post inquiring:
If Jesus was without sin, why must he have been baptized?
I love such questions that invite us to ponder our understanding and engage our faith.
The Gospel accounts agree that Jesus’ baptism was the beginning of his public ministry.
John the Baptizer was the one to ‘prepare the way for the LORD’.
- John not-so-gently invited persons to recognize and acknowledge their own failures and sins.
- John aggressively encouraged persons to repent, or turn from their sins and toward the Will of God.
- Then, John would baptize persons in the Jordon River as a Rite of Purification for their new path. Rites of Purification were and remain significant within the Jewish tradition.
Jesus was without sin to acknowledge; therefore, his baptism was not for the forgiveness of sin.
Since Jesus was without sin, he had not turned from God; therefore, his baptism was not an act of repentance. And yet, such acts of repentance symbolize beginning a ‘new path’ ahead.
Thus, Jesus’ baptism was the beginning of a ‘new path’ that was his public ministry and a public dedication to the path, Will, and Kingdom of God.
This is profound for understanding our baptism into Christ and our public ministry.
According to our Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), as an Ordained Minister within this denominational body I am a public figure engaged in public ministry, including but not limited to:
- [witnessing] to the Kingdom of God in community, in the nation, and abroad; and (C9.03.a.7)
- [speaking] publicly to the world in solidarity with the poor and oppressed, calling for justice and
proclaiming God’s love for the world. (C9.03.a.8)
Although ordained June 2014 with the stole placed upon my shoulders as a reminder of the yoke, the burden of my responsibility as an Ordained Minister, the above public ministry was NOT added weight. The weight of public ministry was originally placed upon my shoulders when I decided to be baptized into Christ at seven.
It is within the Rite of Baptism that one accepts the responsibilities of our shared Christian vocation.
If baptized as an infant or child, loved ones accept the responsibility to raise you within said vocation.
This shared Christian vocation is:
- To live among God’s faithful people who encourage us to come to the Word and the Sacraments, as well as teach us the Lord’s Prayer, the Creeds, and the Ten Commandments;
- To engage our faith and nurture our prayer life, in order to grow deeper and healthier in a trusting relationship with the Triune God;
- To proclaim Christ in our thoughts, words, and deeds;
- To care for other persons, the world, and the creation that God has made; and
- To seek and work for justice and peace.
The weight of public ministry and shared Christian vocation intensified when I was confirmed. Confirmation is our initial public affirmation of baptism, in which previously baptized persons accept their own responsibilities in and dedicate themselves to our shared Christian vocation.
All the baptized, especially the confirmed, share this Christian vocation. It is not the ordained alone.
We all should affirm our baptism and re-dedicate ourselves DAILY whether privately or publicly.
It can be as simple as showering,
simply envision the failures and sins of the day being washed down the drain with the dirt, grim, and germs. Then, re-dedicate yourself to the Christian vocation again.
But, why re-affirm our baptism and re-dedicate ourselves to the Christian vocation daily?
- We are sinful, self-centered critters.
- We fail to walk the path of God daily.
- We fail to act in accordance with the Will of God daily.
- We fail to live into and bring forth the Kingdom of God that is here, near, and not yet fulfilled daily.
Unfortunately, our communities, our nation, and abroad have and continue to suffer from a lack of dedication to, or worse yet a perversion of, our shared Christian vocation, in summary, to:
- to proclaim Christ in thought, word, and deed through imitation;
- to seek justice for the under-privileged;
- to act with compassion and mercy; and
- to love and serve all persons, especially the most vulnerable.
And so, I would fail as a public figure, an Ordained Minister, and a baptized and confirmed Christian,
if I did not recognize, acknowledge, and boldly renounce the violent and deadly riot, attack, and insurrection of our United States Capital Building on Wednesday.
- It was disturbing to bear witness to this event unfolding on my television screen.
- It incited sighs of lament deeper than words could express but the Holy Spirit alone can understand.
- It was not appropriate or excusable. It was not patriotic or American.
On Thursday, a friend asked for my thoughts on the situation to which I simply replied “disturbing”.
He asked what I found most disturbing. I replied that I could not prioritize the disturbing elements.
And yet, there is a disturbing element that our shared Christian vocation demands I address.
- It is the presence of Christian symbols boldly, proudly displayed during the violent acts.
- It is the twisting and perverting of Christian identity intertwined with American politics.
- It was a violent flashpoint of Christian Nationalism on full display for America and the entire world.
Our Christian vocation includes reflecting, imitating Christ in thought, word, and deed.
Jesus was not ignorant of the social and political realities of his Roman occupied time and place.
- It was a time and place of chaos.
- It was a time and place of normalized violence justified to maintain Pax Romania, or Peace of Rome.
- It was a time and place of abuses of power to maintain authority at the expense of the vulnerable.
Jesus was not silently compliant.
Jesus opposed the injustice of Israelite religious elite without violent riots or attacks.
Jesus opposed the injustice of the Roman Empire without violent attacks or insurrection.
Instead, Jesus drove out the darkness of injustice with the divine light of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.
Instead, Jesus opposed the injustice in life and ministry defined by mercy and compassion, grace and love, and humble servant leadership.
Instead, Jesus provided a ‘new’ commandment to love one another as he loved his most intimate disciples (John 13: 34-35). Our love is how we will be identified as Christ-followers.
The Apostle Paul would later write:
“Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:10)
Hope. Peace. Joy. Compassion. Mercy. Grace. Humble Servant-Leadership. LOVE.
- These are the tenants of our reflection and imitation of Christ.
- These are our Christian Identity on display even without visible symbols of Christianity.
Injustice. Abuse. Violence. Riot. Attacks. Insurrection.
- These are NOT tenants of our reflection and imitation of Christ.
- These are a perversion of Christian Identity.
- These should NEVER be associated with Christ, his teachings and symbols included.
And so, considering the state of our communities, our nation and abroad paired with our shared Christian vocation in public ministry, I invite us all to affirm our baptism and re-dedicate ourselves.
Thus, our services in this Time after the Epiphany will begin with an Affirmation of Baptism.
This provides a weekly opportunity to not only give thanks for baptism, but to reflect upon our baptismal responsibilities, Christian Identity, and shared Christian vocation.
May we affirm our baptisms and our responsibilities daily.
May we re-dedicate ourselves to our shared Christian vocation daily.
May we imitate Christ in thought, word, and deed daily.
May we reflect the hope, peace, joy, mercy, compassion, grace, and love of Christ daily.
Scripture was Mark 1: 4-11.
Originally preached on 10 January 2021 from Trinity Lutheran Church (Union City, Indiana).
Statement of Recognition, Acknowledgment, Repentance, and Renouncement:
After the sermon “Why was Jesus Baptized? Why Affirm Our Own?” on January 10th, it was brought to my attention that despite direct renouncing on social media and the generalized renouncing of violence in previous sermons, I had failed to directly renounce previous violence, riot, and attack from the pulpit.
I recognize and acknowledge this failure. I publicly repent.
I bravely and boldly renounce all acts of riot and violence as contrary to the Will and Kingdom of God.
I bravely and boldly renounce all acts of riot and violence despite the associated gatherings, person or persons, organizations or institutions, including but not limited to:
- Black Lives Matter,
- Child Abuse,
- Domestic Violence,
- Gender-based and Sexual Violence,
- Proud Boys,
- Sport Championship Wins,
- and otherwise.
This brave and bold renouncement is rooted in our baptismal commitments and re-commitments in our Affirmation of Baptism, through renouncing the devil, all forces that defy God, the powers of this world that rebel against God, and draw us from the path, Will, and Kingdom of God. This requires the help of God.