Baptism Changes Everything

“Baptism Changes Everything”
by T.D. Busteed
preached Sunday, June 30th, 2019
at St. Matthias Evangelical Lutheran Church
on the occasion of the adoption of their Reconciling in Christ “Welcome Statement”

“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore,
and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.”
Galatians 5:1

As I was spending time with my grandmother this past week, I was remembering stories from my childhood and visits to grandma’s house. One story in particular came to mind as I was reading this week’s passage. When I was younger I had a little dog named Jasmine. We took her to grandma’s house once and wouldn’t you know that within the first ten minutes Jasmine went into the living room, right in the center of the carpet, and peed. My grandmother’s response was not panic or dismay. She just started laughing and said: “Oh! She’s baptizing the carpet!”

Baptism. Baptism changes everything. Just as my grandma’s carpet was forever changed, baptism changes us. It leaves a mark. It leaves an indelible mark. Baptism changes everything.

Now, I don’t remember my own baptism because I was too young, but I do remember my sister’s baptism because I was about six years old when she was baptized. I remember hearing the professions that were made: “Do you renounce the devil and all the forces that defy God?” I remember my parents and my sister’s godparents saying “I renounce them.” When we got to the Creed: “Do you believe in God the Father?” “I believe in God the Father almighty, etc.” I remember standing there and saying to myself: “If I want to be a good big brother, I need to believe this. I need to fully affirm these words that we are committing on behalf of my sister in this moment.”

Indeed, as a church, ANYTIME someone is baptized, we reaffirm our own baptism. We renew that commitment to be there for one another, through life and in death, for better and worse. It’s almost like wedding vows! For richer and poorer, etc. But baptism changes everything. Baptism changes us into the family of God.

Today in our reading from Galatians (5:1, 13-25), we talk about freedom:

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

It’s so simple, and yet so difficult: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Paul expands and lists a whole litany of sins: idolatry, licentiousness, fornication, impurity, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, etc. I think he does this to say that “You are guilty of at least one of these, and you know it. Perhaps anger.” “By contrast the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’m not always patient. And yet, baptism calls us to live into this calling, this life of loving our neighbor. Loving God and loving neighbor. Because baptism changes everything.

    In today’s gospel lesson (Luke 9:51-62), we also get three people who are called to follow Jesus. Instead of following Christ, they end up being a slave to their own fears and concerns of: “What will happen? How do I secure my own security? So that when I follow Jesus, I don’t have to give up everything.” Christ’s response seems rather harsh to us: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” And this one that hits me personally: “Let the dead bury their own dead.” This particular verse has very strange timing in my own life. It was the verse that resonated with me last summer when my father was dying. I had just received a position in a CPE program that was going to take up most of my time and energy for that entire summer. I also knew that my father’s health wasn’t in great condition. And you know that this week my own grandmother isn’t doing great. So the timing is just…strange. I hear it as sort of a word of doom: “Tom, you must keep going. Let the dead bury their dead. Go where God is calling you.” But pair this with the reading from Galatians and the idea of baptism, I also hear: “Don’t worry about them. Don’t worry about them, because in baptism everything is changed. We become the family of God.” My Dad was in the care of nurses, doctors, and complete strangers. Just like now with my own grandmother who is in the care of a nursing home with wonderful strangers. And yet, in baptism, strangers are made family, because Christ has set us free from fear—from fears of “What ifs?” and the fear of the need for security. The fear of letting these things get in the way of following Christ to Jerusalem. And if you know the story from Lent, you know that Jerusalem is a very “not great” part of Jesus’s journey. He ends up dying for us there. And yet, this call to go and do not be afraid, this call to go into the future boldly and do not fear… “for Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.”

    I think also, this week in the news, of the dialogue in our country about what’s going on at our southern border. There have been some horrific images in the news, one in particular of a father and his two year old daughter trying to cross the border, who drowned. And I’m not going to stand here and tell you how to vote, or who is to blame, but I will say that baptism changes everything, because these children become OUR children. These people become our siblings. They become our brothers and sisters. It completely changes how we view: ourselves, our relationship to the world, and to one another, because we were called to be the family of God through our baptism, because Christ set us free, “and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

    My friends, this world is sometimes not an easy place. Many things come up where it seems completely out of our scope of our ability to do anything tangible. And yet, our baptismal calling calls us to at least care. To care for one another. To love our neighbor. And also to trust God. To trust that we have been called into a family, a family formed through water and Word.

    Today, in closing, I’d like us to reaffirm our baptism. I’m going to read some vows that were made at baptism and I invite you into this moment of remembering how Christ has freed you in your own life, “for Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery,” because baptism changes everything.

The order for “Affirmation of Baptism”
(Evangelical Lutheran Worship, pp. 234-235, 237)
immediately followed this sermon.

St. Matthias Evangelical Lutheran Church
Carlisle Springs, PA
Welcome Statement
(adopted by congregational vote, June 30th, 2019)

We are St. Matthias Evangelical Lutheran Church.
We are loved by God. We are family of God. We are caring for the world
so that all will know Christ’s peace.
We come from a diversity of traditions.
We embrace all races, all abilities, all socioeconomic statuses, all sexual orientations and gender identities as expressions of God’s great diversity in this world.
We encourage questions.
Together we seek God’s guidance.
We welcome you to the family of God.

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