24‘A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; 25it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!
26‘So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. 30And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
32‘Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. 34’Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
37Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God
5:20But the law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
6:1What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death? 4Therefore 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.
5For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6We know that our old self was crucified which him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7For whoever has died is free from sin. 8But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
This is the Word of the LORD
I do not remember my own baptism.
Like most folks who were raised Presbyterian, I was baptized as an infant. The people who are First Presbyterian Church of Woodruff, SC baptized me, and did so on behalf of the whole Church, perhaps knowing that other communities would form the faith of this Preacher’s kid.
But I do remember Brady Bouque’s baptism. I do remember Noah Massey-Nichols’s baptism. I do remember Ronin Everhart’s Baptism.
I remember Alli Costner, Adia Smith, Andrew Voigt, and Wade Gibson, the adult baptisms I’ve done.
Every one of those baptisms is something special, something unique, even if more than one baptism is done in a single worship service, I remember something different about each one.
Even they have their own particularity, they all have something in common. Even though adult and infant baptisms each say something distinct about God, they all have something in common.
In Baptism, we are no longer our own. We belong to God. We are claimed by the kingdom, and who we are… shifts.
After the first time I officiated a baptism, I heard that a couple of church members were worried that I wouldn’t know how to hold a baby, since at the time I didn’t have children of my own. But those some people who worried about my ability to hold a child were amazed at God’s ability to shine through that moment when I carried the child around our worship space.
The first thing we do after we baptize an infant is to take them away from their parents. We show the parents that this child whom they have just committed to Christ, is no longer only their child. Their child belongs to the whole Church. They have been claimed by the Kingdom of God and while parents will have have a special position in a child’s faith formation, each child of the covenant belongs to the grace-filled love of God in Christ Jesus.
We are all children of the covenant, regardless of age. God claims us for his kingdom. In life and in death we belong to God. That news is ALWAYS good.
But it’s not always easy.
I LOVE Paul’s letter to the Romans.
Like, of all the books of the Bible, this is the one about which I am MOST likely to geek out. Folks who joined us for lunch bunch this past week got to see some of that first-hand as I dominated the conversation MUCH more than I usually do.
Romans is structured to be read in one sitting. The first half leads up to that beautiful section of chapter eight that assures us that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, and the second half responds to that promise.
Five chapters leading up to this passage have shown us that none of us have an excuse for our sinful behavior. Non-believers had creation to lead them to the creator and the people of the covenant had the law and the prophets to point them towards the God of their ancestors.
Yet still, all sin, all fall short of the glory of God. We have inherited a pattern of sin that goes all the way back to the origin of our species. That sin bound us up so tightly that we could not approach the throne of God, twisting the gift of God’s covenant into opportunity for us to sin all the more. So God intervened, reconciling us to himself through Jesus Christ our Lord. “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” The good news is our almost unlimited capacity for sin does not even come close to God’s ability to forgive. That news is always good.
But it’s not always easy.
The easy way, the cheap grace, is to accept God’s generosity without ever changing ourselves. It looks to the resurrection but overlooks the cross. It sees baptism as a stamp that lets us into the party rather than a costly claim over our whole lives.
In life and in death, we belong to God. We are claimed by the kingdom, and the grace that claims us shows us something of who God is. “Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?” Should we help God out by making him even more forgiving by giving him more to forgive? Should we look for the easy way, the cheap grace? “By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it. Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death?” This is the part that’s not always easy.
The first stage of our journey as one who has been claimed by God’s kingdom is to partake in the death of Christ who claims us. We join the body of Christ not at its moment of strength, but at the depths of our Lord’s vulnerability and suffering. The mark of one claimed by the kingdom is the mark of the cross. When God claims us for his kingdom, we are set free from sin, but we are not set free from suffering. “We move through the waters of baptism into a place where sin no longer has dominion over us, where God is with us, and where the fullness of resurrection life is still to come.” God claims us for his kingdom. We are free from the sin that bound us until Christ’s death. In Baptism, “We will take possession of our new life at the final resurrection; but until that time, the new life we have, we have by reason of Christ.” Now we are able to walk in newness of life, even when that’s not the easiest walk.
Matthew shows us a little bit of the struggles of discipleship. We are claimed by the kingdom, and when folks “have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!” There is pressure from those who still live in sin, and sometimes we will fall back into those old habits ourselves and find ourselves maligning one another.
When Jesus talks about bringing a sword, rather than peace, and when he talks about division within families, I think he’s talking about the friction that follows from our death to sin, and our tentative steps into following Christ. In a world that is not yet fully redeemed, sin still has a hold.
But God has claimed us for his kingdom, and so we do not need to be afraid of the suffering and pressure that is ahead of us. We don’t belong to those pressures, and we are not identified by the suffering we bear along the way. In life and in death we belong to God, that’s who we are. “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified which him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.”
I do not remember my own baptism. But I do remember William’s. His life will not be free from suffering, or hardship, that’s a part of life in this already-saved, but not-yet-fully redeemed world. At his baptism he also joined in Christ’s death, and so he is claimed by the Kingdom. So the person who baptized him walked him up the aisle away from Leah and me, showing us that while we are still his parents, is is claimed by the kingdom of God, and does not belong only to us.
In our baptism, we join Christ’s death and anticipate joining Christ’s resurrection. We are freed from sin, and are able to live toward God, in whom there is abundant life, eternal life, gracious life. We are claimed by the kingdom, and so that we can live according to God’s loving vision for creation, so that we can live in wisdom and faith, knowing that whatever battles face us in this life, God has claimed us for his kingdom, and that victory is already won.