This Second Sunday of the New Year is celebrated in Christian circles as the “Baptism of Our Lord Sunday.” Covenant will join with Christian churches around the world in offering baptism either for the first time or as the opportunity for renewal of previous baptismal vows. Christians view baptism as a time of new beginnings in which they embark on a new journey of walking by faith in relationship with God.
Jesus’ baptism was a new beginning for him also as it is widely recognized as the beginning of His three plus years of public ministry. If we follow Jesus’ example, remembering our baptismal vows on this Baptism of Our Lord Sunday should help us in “putting [our new beginning] our turnaround into action.”
What keeps us from doing just that? I think guilt causes us to throw in the towel when we continue to do things we shouldn’t. We fail to understand that God knows we are not perfect after baptism, so we give up. Not being perfect should NOT keep us from doing our best in “putting our turnaround into action!”
Maybe the following can help you understand my point. Some of you may have seen the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou,” written by Joel and Ethan Coen. It is a whimsical retelling of Homer’s Odyssey set in 1930’s Mississippi.
Three hapless escaped convicts – Everett, Pete and Delmar – are hiding out in the woods, running from the law. There they encounter a group of folks going down to the lake to be baptized. As the folks move toward the water they sing, “Let’s go down to the river and pray.” As the baptism ceremony begins, Delmar is overwhelmed by the spirit of baptisms taking place. He runs into the water and is baptized by the minister. As he return to his companions, he declares that he is now saved and “neither God nor man’s got nothing on me now.” He explains that the minister has told him that all his sins have been washed away. Delmar adds, “Even when he stole the pig for which he’d been convicted.” One of his fellow convicts exclaims “But you said you were innocent of that!” Delmar says, “I lied, and that’s been washed away too!” Later, hunger causes the three convicts to steal a hot pie from a window sill. Delmar, who felt that his sins have been washed away, returns and places a dollar bill on the window sill.
You see, this story tells us that Delmar wasn’t made perfect by his baptism any more than any of the rest of us are made perfect by our baptism. But what we do see is that Delmar was made conscious of his new beginning and was making his best effort, in his limited understanding of “Putting His Turnaround into Action!” Remembering our baptismal vows should make us go and do likewise.
Join us for worship at Covenant on this Baptism of Our Lord Sunday. We will offer baptism and also the renewal of your baptismal vows. My hope and prayer is that we will take this opportunity for “Putting Our Turnaround Into Action.” That’s the title of my sermon based on “Acts 8:15-17 and “Luke 3:15-27, 21-22.”