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Those Baptised God Against the Flow
based on Matthew 3:13-17
The cover of our bulletin states that our ministers are all the baptised members of the congregation... Who ever came up with a crazy idea like that? Don't we pay the church staff to be our ministers?...
Looks like it all started w/Jesus' baptism. Until Jesus showed up thre at the Jordan River, John had been baptising people as an act of their repentance. it was a kind of ritual cleansing for folks who were willing to turn back toward God. But something happened when Jesus was baptised -- the heavens seemed to break open. The Holy Spirit was so unmistakenly present that it looked like a dove lighting on him -- And that voice! A voice spoke from the air, "You are my much loved son, I am very pleased with you."
Well -- the whole scene looks more like an annointing for leadership than like a ritual cleansing! You see, for many years the priests and prophets of Judaism had been annointed at the beginning of their ministry.... When a leader was annointed, it was like a commissioning -- an ordination.
Jesus' baptism in the Jordan looks a lot like the traditional annointing. Especially when you consider what happens next: Jesus goes straight to the wilderness for a time of spiritual preparation, then jumps into his ministry full force. So think of Jesus' baptism as his commissioning for ministry.
More important, think of YOUR baptism as a commissioning. Not that the other aspects of your baptism don't count (brief listing of washing of sin, initiation into church, etc.). But too many Christians act as if baptism is designed only for their personal benefit. Today, think of your baptism in light of Jesus' baptism. Like Jesus, you have been annointed for the benefit of others. Your baptism is a commissioning to service - an ordination to ministry. In other words, if you are a baptised Xn, you have been drafted. Consider yourself conscripted into the most high-powered special forces the world will ever know. Because as a baptised Xn,God has chosen you to carry out the mission of God's kingdom. Whether or not you choose to show up for active duty is your business. But ready or not, God HAS called you by name! Your baptism is your commissioning. Baptised members of the congregation, YOU are ministers of the Gospel!
You realize, of course, that we're commissioned to oppose the ways of the world. The waters of our baptism force us to go against the flow. Can't be helped -- God's kingdom just grates against our culture. So ministers of God's kingdom face tough challenges.
Did you ever come home from the swimming pool wearing a half-damp swimsuit? You know - just dry enough to feel dry against your skin, but wet enough to leave a spot on your mothers' living room sofa? ... Well, the ministry of baptised Xns is kind of like the wet bathing suit syndrome. Because the waters of our baptism never quite seem to dry up. Everywhere we go, we leave behind the marks of our baptism. We aggravate the world with the mess we make.
No reason to be surprised ... Baptism marks us for life as followers of the One who so upset the status quo that both secular and religious leaders sentenced him to death! As followers of JX, how can we NOT challenge the world?
.... MLK's interpretation of the way the demonstrators faced the challenge of Bull Connor's fire hoses: "And we went before the fire hoses; we had known water. If we were a Baptist or some other denomination, we had been immersed. If we were Methodist, and some others, we had been sprinkled, but we knew water." According to King, because the demonstrators knew the water of baptism, the water of Bull Connor's fire hoses could not stop them. They fought water w/ water. What else could they do? They were commissioned ministers, serving in God's kingdom to transform the world. They HAD to go against the flow.
But don't we all? Hasn't God also chosen US to fight water with water? How can we help but let our baptism get us in trouble?
Truth is, we're scared. Too afraid to let our baptism leak out into the world.... Besides, we aren't MLKs here, we're just ordinary people.
Well, God has a word for ordinary people like us. It's an ancient promise... Long before Jesus, the people of Israel..: strangers in a strange land. Babylonian Empire had sent them to a foreign world where they struggled to keep God's laws in the midst of a hostile culture. To these people, God spoke the age-old promise: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you .. the rivers shall not overwhelm you. Fear not, for I am with you."
.... We have been drafted to go against the flow, yes -- but drafted by the One who loves us without limit: "You are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you," says the Lord to Israel, to us. "You are my beloved child," says God to Jesus, to you.
You dont' have to be an MLK or a Mother Theresa. You dont' have to be a clergy personor a Sunday School teacher, or evena member of the Ad. Bd. -- You just have to be yourself: the minister of the Gospel that God has annointed you to be. Fear not as you go against the flow --for you are held afloat by the limitless love of God.
Frank Schaefer, for JavaCasa Resources and the Desperate Preacher's Site, 1999