I was in seminary and I was working on a sermon.
I translated the passage I was working on from Greek to English, I studied the text, I prayed over the text, I was putting a good sermon together.
Then came the day for me to deliver my sermon and to turn in my manuscript. Afterwards, I felt pretty good I had just given an outstanding sermon.
A couple of days later I got my manuscript of my sermon back from my professor. Excited to see how I did I quickly looked it over.
My sermon was completely marked up with red pen.
I turned to the last page of the sermon and there it was. D – and then in large letters: See me after class.
Of course, at first I thought well, what an unfair grader! Then Kalen shared with me what she got, at that time she was in the same preaching class.
A + followed by the sentence: It is a joy having you in class.
(Maybe I should have told the call committee about that when I interviewed here to be your pastor!)
In the end though, isn’t it wonderful to know that our salvation is not based on how well we can articulate our faith but rather our salvation is based on what God does for us in baptism.
In my own faith it was a powerful shift in my theology when I truly realized that we are saved because of God’s work of God’s action, of what God does for us, not what we do, not our own work or what we do.
In confirmation class this past week I had my students discuss Ephesians 2:8-9. The verse reads: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God not the result of works, so that no one can boast.
We are saved because of what God chooses to do. God chooses to save us so there is no reason for us to boast.
In baptism God does all the work. Baptism is about what God does for us. We receive forgiveness for all of our sins, we are redeemed from death and from all evil, and we are given eternal life.
In baptism God delivers us from that which is not life-giving.
In return God freely gives us life here and now and eternal life in the age to come.
Jesus said in the Gospel of Mark, “The one who believes and is baptized will be saved!”
By God’s gift and call, all of us who have been baptized into Christ are daily put to death from our old life so that we might be raised to new life each and every new day.
We are at the same time sinners and saved people. We are captive to sin. We cannot free ourselves from sin.
But at the same time through Christ we receive rebirth, renewal, and new life each and every time we confess our sins and receive Jesus’ forgiveness.
Because we are baptized we receive these blessings.
In his life Jesus was both fully God and fully man. As a man Jesus chose to be baptized. In his baptism he hears the wonderful words: “You are my Son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
The Holy Spirit also descends upon Jesus in the form of a dove. For Christians doves represent the Holy Spirit. In all four of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John record that the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus like a dove at his baptism.
The Spirit rests upon Jesus and God affirms Jesus’ identity as the very Son of God who is deeply loved by God.
We too are spoken by God in this way at our baptism. We are called out by God as sons and daughters whom God loves deeply.
In baptism God’s Spirit rests upon us and we are joined with the whole company of God’s people.
It is not water alone that does this but water with the Word of God, with God’s promises. Through water and the Word we are given all of these benefits in baptism.
After baptism how do we continue in this covenant made by God?
We remain in the covenant by participating in the life of the church, by hearing God’s Word, by receiving Christ’s Supper, by telling others about Jesus, by working for justice and peace in the world, by reading the Scriptures, by encouraging one another, by daily prayer, and by remembering our baptism each and every day.
To remember our baptismal covenant this is something that everyone here could start doing each day.
Every morning I run some water from the sink and with the water I make the sign of the cross on my forehead and then I remember my baptism.
It is a simple thing that I do each morning but it makes an impact on the rest of my day.
It is comforting to know, that no matter what happens the rest of the day, I am a beloved child of God. And that God’s Spirit is upon me and God is with me.
Would you consider trying that this coming week?
In the morning, shortly after you get up, make the sign of the cross with some water on your forehead, in order to remember your baptism.
This simple practice can powerfully impact your faith and it can be a visible reminder of God’s grace and love in your life.
It is a reminder to me that I am saved by grace though faith not because of anything that I have done but rather because of what God has done for me.