Baptized into his death - rising in his new life

What exactly happens in baptism?  What difference does it make?  It makes the difference between death and life.

Full Text: 

Baptized into his death – rising into his life

May 17, 2015 – Romans 6:1-11

 

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

 

            So – confirmation class of 2015 – did you hear that?  When you were baptized (which all of you were) you were baptized into the death of Jesus.  Maybe you didn’t realize that because you were so small.  Maybe you were so small that you didn’t realize anything.  But your parents should have known better.  Baptized into the death of Jesus?  That’s weird.  Maybe social services should be notified.

            But this kind of death is not a bad thing.  It is a good thing.  In this death, we die, not in ourselves, but to everything that might keep us from God – from knowing and enjoying God’s grace, God’s love, and God’s peace.  We die to self-centeredness.  We die to ordering our lives by our own ignorance.  We die to things that we think will give us freedom, but instead just keep us enslaved. We die to things we think will lead us to life, but actually lead us to a dead-end.

            What are those things?   I don’t think we need to look very far to find them.  All we need to do is to turn on the television or pick up a magazine.  Riches and power, fame and physique are among the most prominent.  Over and over again, we are told, “You can’t really be happy unless you have…this car, this house, this partner, this deodorant, this beer, this soft drink, this electronic device, this body.”  Certainly there is pleasure in those things.  Some of them, used rightly, serve us and serve us well.  But they cannot give us life and they cannot by themselves make us happy.

           

            In 2004, Ukraine was still trying to establish itself as a democracy following the breakup of the Soviet Union.  They would have elections, but the outcome of the elections was always determined by the party.

            In 2004, though, things were different.  Victor Yushchenko was challenging the candidate of the ruling party for the position of president.  At one point, he was poisoned under mysterious circumstances.  It endangered his health and permanently disfigured his face.  Nevertheless, he carried on with the campaign.

            In the November election, exit polls showed Yushchenko a winner by 10%.  But when the results were announced, the people were told that the candidate of the party had easily won.

            Now, when the announcement was broadcast on TV, there was a small window on the lower corner where someone was signing for deaf people, so they too could know the results.  But what that person signed was, “This is what they say happened. But they are lying!  Don’t believe them!”

So it was that deaf people in Ukraine got out into the streets and joined those who were protesting the election.  Because of protests and complaints, a new election was ordered.  And this time Yushchenko easily won.

           

            When I heard this story, I thought, “That’s what we need!  We need the voice of protest in a little corner of the screen or at the bottom of the page, saying, ‘Are you sure?  Is this really true?  Will this really give me a fulfilling life?’”

            I know it’s hard for you – confirmation class of 2015 – to believe this.  You don’t have your driver’s license yet, and you can’t wait to get your hands on a steering wheel – any steering wheel.  Your bodies haven’t fully developed yet, so it’s hard to say what your bodies could be like with the right diet and exercise.  You’re not even sure what you want to do with your life, but power and wealth and fame look pretty good at this point.

            I could say that it is the job of the church to steer you in another direction.  And it may be.  But you are likely to discover some those lessons on your own.  (I confess – I’m still learning them!)  I only hope that when you do, and you begin to look around for alternatives to what society has been telling you about the right kind of life, you will remember this day.  You will remember your baptism and the day you affirmed the faith of your baptism.

            This is the baptized life – it is dying and it is rising – dying to what we think will make us happy and rising to something far better than we can imagine.

 

            This may seem a bit vague and metaphorical, I know.  So, let me turn to something a bit more down to earth.

            In your faith statements, I asked you to identify a favorite Bible story or Bible verse.  More than one of you chose I Corinthians 16:13-14:

            Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong.  Let all that you do be done in love.

            First, keep alert.  Pay attention.  When we stop paying attention is when we stop questioning.  When we start accepting without thinking what other people are telling us – on TV, in magazines, on the internet – that’s when we get ourselves into trouble.  So, keep alert.  Stay awake.  Examine for yourself what you are hearing.

            Stand firm in your faith.  Hold on to your convictions. Don’t be swayed by every fancy trend, by every passing wind.  But also be open to examining your own convictions from time to time.  Perhaps there is some truth that you haven’t recognized.

            Be courageous.  You will face resistance.  You will face opposition.  This is natural.  If you don’t, it may mean that you are simply going along with everyone else, which is not a good idea.

Be strong.  Hang in there.  Persevere.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Let all that you do be done in love.  In every situation, ask yourself, what is the most loving thing that I can do right now?  The most loving thing may ask you to let go of something – your agenda, your control, your expectations – or, to put it another way, it may ask you to die to something in order to act in a loving way.  But when you die in that way, you don’t lose your life.  You find it.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

This is the baptized life.  This is the life you are affirming today.  It is death you died and the new life that was given you in your baptism.  This is the new life that comes through dying and rising.  This is the new life that is yours in Jesus.