For the Love of God is Victorious
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.”
“For the Love of God is Victorious”
(1 John 5:2-4)
Maybe you’ve heard the story about the two little girls who went to a Baptist Church with their grandmother and witnessed their first Baptism by immersion. When they got home they excitedly told Mom all about it. “It was neat, Mom. Grandma’s church has a swimming pool in it, right behind the choir. The preacher got in there with some other guy. He grabbed this guy by the nose, pushed him under the water and yelled, ‘In the name of the Father, and the Son, in the hole you go!’”
No wonder those little girls were confused.
I. STRANGE STUFF:
A. You see, what we are about this morning, and what we are fixing to do is rather strange stuff if you look at it with the world’s eye or the unbeliever’s eye. We’re going to say some stuff about God. We’re going to claim to believe some specific stuff about God, and Jesus and someone known as the Holy Spirit. We’ll talk about repentance and forgiveness and then we’ll splash a little water on someone’s head and say that they are clean and different and a new person, when all it looks like is that they’re wet.
We’ll listen to all kinds of words about God in Christ reaching out and saving our lives and then throwing us in the water.
To the unfamiliar eye or mind, this all seems a little bizarre. And yet this oddly peculiar wet moment is one of the most wonderful grace filled moments of the Church. It is through this moment that the love of God is victorious. God’s love is made victorious, as John says, through our faith.
Consequently, this is a definitive moment, for it defines who we are, not just for today but for every day of the future.
II. DEFINING MOMENT:
A. If we let it, the world will try to define us. TV and Radio advertisers already try to define us as someone to be duped and taken advantage of. They try to define us as people consumed with consuming. They approach us as if we have the intelligence of a rock; the feelings and compassion of a slug; and the appetite and manners of a hog at the trough.
Psychologists define us as slaves of our environment, slaves to patterns of behavior ingrained since birth.
The Church’s initial definition isn’t much more comforting. It says that apart from Christ, we are slaves to sin and selfishness, and alienated from God and each other.
B. But, through the Divine act of Baptism, God touches our lives, marks us and changes us. In Baptism we are given new eyes, new skin, a new heart and a new soul all washed and scrubbed and squeaky clean and hung out to dry in the mighty wind of Pentecost.
God’s love is poured out upon us not just in a dribble or a shower but in a full blown downpour of God’s grace that floods our souls with waves of love which gush up and splash that love on others. God sprinkles our hearts with grace and immerses our spirits in an endless spring of forgiveness and we rise to new life in Christ. God calls us to the river of life where our sorrows are drowned in tears of joy.
We shake off and rise from these waters of blessing and are “marked” by a peculiar sign, an invisible watermark; an invisible seal of approval which says we are true children of God, eligible in every way to receive the “inheritance” of our salvation. Baptism is part of this victory which John was talking about, for in baptism we overcome the world’s definitions of us and we come to know who we really are, and whose we are.
A grandmother proudly introduced her two young grandchildren to a friend who remarked, Oh, they’re so cute. How old are they?” Grandma smiled real big and said, "The lawyer is two and the doctor is four!”
That story shows the hope of every parent and grandparent, that our children will grow up to be “someone” of importance. But what we do today reminds us that whenever we baptize, we no longer have to wonder what these children will be when they grow up. We know that each of them is already someone of importance. He/She is a child of God. Baptism is a defining moment that celebrates the victorious love of God. It marks and changes us. Baptism says something about who we are. And who we are is children of God.
Nell Mohney in her book, DON’T PUT A PERIOD WHERE GOD PUT A COMMA, tells about a young lady named Kathy. There was an aliveness about Kathy that was evident as soon as you met her. She exuded energy, joy in being alive, and openness to those she met. But Kathy wasn’t always like that. She grew up in a dysfunctional family where she was a victim of verbal abuse by her mother and physical abuse by her alcoholic father. As she described it, she “felt like a big zero.”
Then something happened that changed her life forever, even though it didn’t seem like a very big deal at the time. Kathy was in the sixth grade when the girl who sat behind her invited her to attend Sunday School. The girl explained that her Sunday School teacher had challenged them to each invite a friend. “Do you go to Sunday School and church?” the girl asked Kathy. “No, I don’t,” was the reply. “Well, why don’t you meet me at the front of my church at 9:30 this Sunday?” asked the girl. That’s how Kathy attended her first Sunday School class.
Mrs. Parsons, the sixth grade Sunday School teacher became, in Kathy’s opinion, her guardian angel. She took special interest in Kathy, often inviting her into her home where the two of them had long talks. She told Kathy that God loved her. She said that Jesus’ death on the cross shows how much God cares. Mrs. Parsons made a world of difference to Kathy.
The story doesn’t end here. A friendship also developed between Mrs. Parsons and Kathy’s mother. Her mother felt as alienated as her daughter. It was Mrs. Parsons who led both mother and daughter to a heart-felt commitment to Christ. A strong friendship developed between the teacher and the mother as well as with Kathy herself. It was when she could finally forgive her father that Kathy experienced her greatest breakthrough to freedom.
“The Zero has changed to a number Ten with an exclamation point,” says Kathy of her new life in Christ. “I see myself as a person of great worth,” she says, “not because of what I have done, but because of what God has done for me through Christ.” (1)
Baptism makes a statement about who we are. We are those for whom Jesus gave his life. The love of God IS victorious. Through our faith in Christ, baptism changes people who think they are zeros into 10s with exclamation points.
Baptism defines us. We are the children of God, washed squeaky clean and marked for God’s service.
Baptism reminds us that, no matter what the circumstance of life, the love of God is victorious.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. Nell W. Mohney, DON’T PUT A PERIOD WHERE GOD PUT A COMMA, (Nashville: Dimensions for Living), 1993, pp. 17-19