Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Baptism of Our Lord

Sermon for the Baptism of Our Lord
January 13, 2008
Fr. Tim Fountain

Continuing my nostalgic Army cadence chant:
Everywhere we go
People want to know
who we are...


We come from all different backgrounds and life circumstances
· Peter (Acts 10:34-43) preaches that “God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” That’s good news for all of us, and for all kinds of people all around us.

We come through the water of Baptism
· As Peter preaches his message, the Holy Spirit fills the house and Peter is moved to baptize all who are there(10:44-48).
We come from Jesus Christ, who sends us to do his work in the world
· Jesus began his earthly ministry by being baptized (See Mark 1).
· Although he did not “need” baptism in the same way that we do, he submitted to it, in order to present a perfect offering on God’s terms.
· We might better understand this by a visit to the Old Testament – Exodus 30:17-21. The ancient priests who prayed for God’s people and offered their sacrifices passed through water to perform their duties. Jesus begins his ministry on earth with a ritual washing. He goes on to make himself the perfect sacrifice in payment for our sins and to live forever, praying for us.
· Jesus has an “eternal priesthood”, because his death on the cross stands as an eternal offering and he lives to intercede (pray) for us (Hebrews 7:23-25).
· We are a "royal priesthood", chosen by Jesus to "proclaim the mighty acts of him who called (us) out of darkness into his marvellous light.” (I Peter 2:9).

“Where we come from” tells us who we are
· Before my baptism, I was just another child of earth, born “of the will of the flesh” (John 1:13), a slightly more brainy member of the animal kingdom.
· After baptism, I was “born again,” not by any activity of my own but by the grace of God who chose me.
· In Confirmation I affirmed belief in Jesus as the source of my new life and opened myself to spiritual gifts with which to do his work.
· Peter says that “everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Do you believe that? Do you believe that every human being stands in need of God’s mercy? Do you understand that it was necessary for you to come through the waters of baptism, and that having been baptized it was necessary for you to affirm your belief in Jesus? Do you believe that “Christ is your life” (Colossians 3:4)? Do you believe that he chooses you to serve the world in his Name?

You see, “where we come from” also tells us what we are to do
· Peter says, “God commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that Jesus is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.”
· In the letter where he calls us a “royal priesthood,” Peter tells us to “proclaim the mighty acts of Jesus, who called (us) out of darkness into his marvellous light.”
· As I said in last week’s sermon, we are people who should point to Jesus so that others can see him.

Recognizing that we’ve come through the waters of baptism, let us reaffirm our faith in Jesus and accept his work as a royal priesthood by praying for the world in his name:

· The congregation is sprinkled with baptismal water while saying the Apostles’ Creed:
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. AMEN.

· The congregation then prays for the church and the world, sharing in the work of Jesus, our eternal High Priest who intercedes for us.


Alice C. Linsley said...

This is excellent, Father! We do indeed come to Life through Baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, in whom we put our trust and whom we preach to the anxious world.

This is the meaning of Baptism: spiritual regeneration. The BCP from 1549 to 1928 preserves this catholic and apostolic understanding.In the 1979 book, this is so diluted as to be non-existent.

Anonymous said...

Alice, I partially agree. I mean, I fully agree that it's a splendid sermon, but only partially agree about the radically revised baptismal rite in the 1979 BCP. It represents a few losses, including perhaps a weakened stress on baptismal regeneration, but it also reflects many gains. It represents a big step twoard the recovery of the incredibly rich patristic heritage with regard to baptism and Christian Initiation in general.

By that I mean things like the restoration of the Easter Vigil as the best context for baptism, the (optional) restoration of the crucial baptismal anointing with chrism, the whole idea of the regular renewal of baptismal vows by the congregation and so on.

Fr. Tim, I'm glad you led the parish in the renewal of those baptismal vows and used the venerable old rite of the "Asperges" (sprinkling with holy water as a reminder of our baptism). Way to go. Keep up the good work.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Father Handy, I respectfully disagree with you. Have you been reading Hatchett's Commentary on the New American Prayer Book? Please read:

I encourage you to get copies of the 1549/1555, 1662, 1779 and 1928 versions of the Book of Common Prayer and compare the 1979 prayer book (not a Book of Common Prayer) with the historic Anglican formularies for Baptism and Eucharist. What you will discover is that both Rite I and Rite liturgies have the same format, though Rite I uses traditional language. This form does not follow the pattern of all former Books of Common Prayer, nor does it follow the pattern of the ancient liturgies of St. John or St. Basil the Great.

The 1979 changes in the ordination service is an eye opener also!

Anonymous said...

Well, Alice, I like your spirit. I'm glad you're unafraid to dare to challenge a priest, and especially a priest with a Ph.D.

This isn't really the best forum to carry on a debate. If you wish to discuss these matters with me privately, I'd be happy to do so. But for the moment I suggest we declare a truce and agree to disagree, at least for now.

Suffice to say that I'm well aware of all the previous BCPs you mention, as well as Dr. Hatchett's fine commentary. But I stand by my claim that the revised initiatiorty rites in the 1979 BCP represents a revolutionary attempt at RECLAIMING our patristic inheritance. On the whole, I'm very happy with it. In fact, I think it doesn't go far enough in that recovery of a pre-Constantinian pattern of Christian initiation. But that's a big, complex, and yes, controversial subject.

And lest I be unclear and misunderstood, my enthusiasm for the baptismal section of the 1979 BCP does NOT amount to a blanket approval of the 1979 book as a whole. There are MANY problems with the 1979 BCP, although I can live with it happily enough. The problem is how our liberal opponents misuse and abuse the book, exploiting some of its weak points.

I'm not tryhing to pick a fight, Alice. Nor to avoid one. But this isn't my blog, so I'll defer to Fr. Tim's judgment.

As the late, great Ruth Graham said, "If two minds always think alike, one of them is unnecessary."

Alice, you and I have agreed many times here. I'm like to think that neither of us is "unnecessary."

Alice C. Linsley said...

Fr. handy, I appreciate your concern about enhancing the initiatory meaning of Baptism. This requires restoring the old way of catechism, which usually involved one-on-one tutorial, lasting for as long as the priest felt was necessary to insure that the catechmen was prepared. The Great Vigil, the white robes, the new fire. All wonderful, but none of these are essential or even indigenous to the Anglican Way.

I agree that the problem is how the sacraments are abused by unregenerate clergy. But this isn't a new problem.

Forgive me if my response seemed offensive. Having been a priest, I tend to engage people from a virtual pulpit.

Anonymous said...


No offense taken. If we always agreed on everything, life would be rather dull now, wouldn't it?

Actually, I enjoy your "spunk."