Named By God In Baptism

It took Beth and I longer each time to name our kids. It wasn’t that we hadn’t talked about it or perused the latest baby name books. We took more time for careful observations to fit the name to a unique character trait, situation, or hope for our family. One easy certainty for the birth certificate was the last name. The certificate made it legal. They belonged to us: God’s gift of life bestowed to our family through the growing covenant love of their father and mother. Even the tiny undeveloped features reflected aspects of their mother’s face, their grandparent’s hair, and their father’s nose (a curse).

Baptism is like that. It may take a while for a follower of Christ to really find their full identity, their gifts and sweet spot for kingdom vocation, and their comfort worshipping and serving in the church. Christian living is a continually growing faith seeking understanding; an ongoing development and outworking of the character of Jesus Christ over one’s life.

But one certain thing Baptism proclaims is that you belong. You are God’s beloved through Jesus Christ. Your identity is now shaped by the name of the Triune God – the loving Father who creates and saves, the giving Son who provides the way to life, and the enlivening Spirit who equips and unites the church as your family. This mysterious working of the Trinity continues over a lifetime and beyond our full comprehension – thus faith.

At baptisms we take pictures and sign a certificate. I’m not sure if that makes it legal. But faithfulness to Christ’s command and the promise of God’s Word secures something. Faith in Christ expressed through the physical act seals in memory the powerful working of the Gospel already begun in the individual’s life in at least 3 image-rich ways.

Baptism proclaims that the new life has begun. Just as creation came forth from water in Genesis 1, and the new creation was proclaimed by God over Jesus’ own baptism, so the waters proclaim the new creation at work in the individual’s life. The early church fathers called the waters of baptism both a tomb and a womb. Laying down under the water before rising up again pictures our dying and rising with Jesus Christ unto new life.

Additionally, water cleanses. We know this physically. And it was true long before indoor plumbing. Ceremonially, water washings in the Old Testament covenant law were a way for God’s people to demonstrate their cleansing and purity of obedience for service and life among the covenant people. Similarly in the New Testament baptism pictures a cleansing in Christ for the Spirit to gift and equip a believer for a life time of faithfulness and service to Christ and His church.

Finally, baptism is no mere individual act. It is a celebration of a new addition into the baptized community; welcoming a new family member as it were. God called His people His own as he brought them through the waters in the climax of the exodus from Egypt. Again He led them through waters as a people into their promised land when they crossed the Jordan River. And all followers of Christ, faithful to Christ’s command to be baptized pass through the same waters of baptism. Baptism identifies and unites the family of Christ.

This Sunday is one of great celebrations – including five baptisms. Plan to be a part of the party. Remember your own baptism. Take stock of the ongoing work of the Gospel forming you in Christ’s image as you were once identified with the name of the Trinity. And welcome those with their extended families with joy and a commitment to support and care for them in their journey of faith together in the real life of Jesus Christ.

The details for this Sunday:

• 9:30 am – Worship Service with pastor installation. The soon to be honored new Dr. Abraham Joseph will be providing the charge for the flock and our shepherds from John 21.

• 11:00 am – Family Meeting.  Our quarterly family meeting will take place at 11:00 in the sanctuary. There will be no adult classes. Children’s programs will continue. And the youth are encouraged to join the adults for some open dialogue and updates on the leadership and ministry life of our church.

• 12:15 pm – Baptism Service & Picnic.  We will celebrate baptisms followed by our baptism picnic. Please plan to stay, and bring your lawn chairs and blankets to enjoy barbeque outside on our lawn.  Cost is only $5 per plate. It is a great time of fellowship together. And, Dan and Gayle Lippincott – missionaries with AVANT ministries in Spain will be with us. Take some time to get to know them, their ministry, and encourage them as partners in ministry abroad.

Together in Christ Jesus,

Keith

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