Question: What is eternally true about you? Answer: God loves you. Always has. Always will. You can’t earn that love; lose that love; add to it by doing extra credit good things; take away from it by doing stupid, rotten, bad things. God will never love you more – and God will never love you less – than God does right now. Warts and all.
Baptism reminded Jesus of that: “You are my beloved! With you I am well-pleased.” Baptism reminds us of that, too. Through your Baptism God said – and in this moment God says: “You are my beloved! With you I am well-pleased.”
Baptism is not a one-and-done event that only serves to punch your ticket so that you go to heaven after you die. Baptism is the present, continuing, eternal reality that heaven is with you now. Today. Tomorrow. Forever.
That’s what Baptism means, and this is what Baptism does: In Baptism, you are called, cleansed, and commissioned.
In Baptism, you are called – by name. God says in Baptism: “Hey, you. Yes, you. John. Maria. Evelyn. Gustavo. Tamika. Sergey. I love you. All the labels that people want to slap on you don’t mean a thing: Winner, loser, jock, geek, rich, poor, male, female, or something else – or anything else – none of those labels ultimately mean anything – because the only thing that is ultimately true about you is how I see you. And I see you as mine. My child. You just as you are. Unique and beloved – forever. I invite you to live a life of love, blessing, peace, and joy with me.”
In Baptism, you are called, and in Baptism you are also cleansed. By grace – through God’s sheer, unmerited mercy – anything that would ever separate you from God has been eternally separated from you: Sin, evil, injustice, hell itself – none of that can separate you from the love of God in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:39). How could that be true? Because Jesus Christ is risen today. God in Christ was born, lived, ministered, died, and was raised to make everything eternally right so that Love wins. Calvary’s awful cross shows how much God loves us (John 3:16), and Easter’s empty tomb shows us that nothing – not even death – can defeat the God of Love whose love is saving you right now – and forever. Baptism is a sign that we are cleansed because of what God in Christ through love did for us all. And because it’s Christ’s work and not our work, we can’t undo it, lose it, or escape the glad, Gospel truth that God’s saving love for you shall eternally prevail.
In Baptism, you are called and cleansed, and in Baptism you are also commissioned. You are washed by water and you are equipped by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is poured out on you, empowering you and me and all of us with holy gifts, guidance, and grace so we can live life God’s way: To forgive, not avenge; to share, not hoard; to be humble, not haughty; to be loving, not hateful – so that we can follow Christ by going where he goes and by doing what he does. We are commissioned – given marching orders and empowered by the Holy Spirit – to be a new creation in a dying world; to show, share, and shine as we follow Christ’s Way, spread Christ’s Truth, and live Christ’s Life of love, justice, and peace.
The world judges us by our looks, age, wealth, social status, where we live; what kind of car we drive; and how many toys we own. Thank God, we are free to not give a rip about any of that. Yes, we are to do our best. But we don’t have to earn anything – because God has already given us everything.
So, breathe easy. You are free. You are saved. You are loved. You don’t have to waste a minute of your life competing for the booby prizes the world tells us to sell our souls for. We, who belong to Christ, can love neighbors – and forgive enemies – and stand up for what is right because that’s what love does. That’s what God wants. And that’s how our best lives are lived.
Thank God, all of that is possible and here and can be lived today. All we have to do is remember who we are – and whose we are. That Love will carry the day. That Love will accompany you today. And that Love will see you home – because that Love is already your home. It is where you are and who you are right now.