What is Baptism?
What does baptism mean and why is it so fabulous?
Why get baptised?
remarks given at Shelly's baptism by Pastor Sue Palmer
There are many varied, personal reasons that can lead a person to the decision for baptism. Here are some that I have encountered as a pastor to people who have been preparing themselves to enter the water:
Yes, but what is baptism?
Well let's start with this scripture from Matthew:
As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea - for they were fishermen. And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people." Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James, son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him. Mat 4:18-22
It begins with this call to you from Jesus - ' Follow Me'
Jesus, Love in the flesh, calls you to leave your net. This is a very radical thing! Peter and Andrew were throwing their nets into the sea. James and John were mending their nets. All of these men were absorbed, focused on the task in hand. And indeed, their task was a noble one, their livelihood, providing for their families. This was what they knew. They had grown up with nets and boats and fish. They knew their work, they were at home on the sea. It was familiar, and it was where they belonged. And from this very life that they knew so well, this familiar family trade that was born and bred in them, Jesus called.
Fishing wasn’t some pleasantry or leisure activity that Jesus called them from. Peter and Andrew weren't sitting around with their feet up. They weren't watching the cricket. James and John weren't at the movies, or having an afternoon nap. Jesus called them in the MIDDLE of their work! Jesus didn't say, 'hey boys! You're not doing anything - why not follow me..?' It wasn't 'hey you guys, you bored? You want some purpose in your life? You want some action? Follow me, and I'll give you something to live for..' No, Jesus was calling them in the MIDDLE of something that was their life!
Jesus was calling them not to stop being fishermen, not to change their occupation. Jesus was calling them to change their FOCUS. No longer would fish be their focus.. Fish would still be important, their livelihood, but something changed. It would no longer be for the fish that these men would be striving. Fishing would become no longer the reason to get out of bed each day. By responding to Jesus, these disciples shifted their priority from simply providing for themselves, to bringing the bread of life to others. From self-focus and self-absorption comes a new way of living. Jesus calls us to live differently.
The disciples seemed to instantly drop their nets in response. What was it about the Christ that drew them to Him? Perhaps they had already met him, heard about him, had dinner with him? All we know is that their encounter with Jesus changed them. They immediately left what they were doing and followed. What a gob-smackingly powerful act of faith! No loitering, putting Jesus on hold.. No waiting till the repairing of the net was finished, or the catch of fish was completed. These disciples left what they were doing and straight away followed.
All of the choices that the disciples had made in their lives led to this moment. They were ready to respond.
We daily make a choice to follow Jesus. To lay down our nets and the things that are important to us, in order to be able to love others - for in doing so there is a far greater joy. Perhaps the disciples caught a glimpse of this joy - or perhaps they acted on their trust in Jesus, that if, by following Him, they would find more than just fish.
What is it that prevents us from doing the same?
Baptism declares your partnership with God. Baptism is a sacrament that validates how God has led you, helped you, directed you, and loved you. And through baptism you have a chance to acknowledge God's presence and love in your life. As you permit yourself to be lowered under the water, you are acknowledging you live not by yourself or for yourself, but in partnership with God. This public declaration to family and friends is that you and Jesus journey together. The 'washing away' of self-centeredness, is a symbol of how your new life in partnership with Christ calls you to love not just yourself, but all people everywhere.
Don't worry, you will still be a fisherman But now you don't just fish for fish.