Matthew 3:13-17 – The first Sunday after Epiphany – for Sunday, January 12, 2014
“And when Jesus had been baptized . . .” (Matthew 3:16)
I recall one particular family, several months before I left my last church, that asked me to talk to them about baptism for themselves—the parents—and their two children. We negotiated calendar dates and, ta-da, I arrived at their home at the appointed time.
Talking about baptism was and is normal for me. It’s in my job description! I am ordained, according to the United Methodist Church, for “word, order, and sacrament.” Baptism (along with communion) falls into the third category: sacrament.
Most pastors, since the church became an institution, have a job description that includes baptism, communion, covenant ceremonies, preaching and supporting the living and honoring the dead during times of death. In the pastoring biz, we joke about hatching, matching and dispatching. Another version would be marryin’, buryin’, and baptizin’. We can make what we do sound humorous or serious, simple or complex.
And our normal is strange.
It’s strange to visit people in their homes. Who does that anymore?
It’s strange to talk about a ceremony that’s mostly a mystery.
It’s strange—in a world of Duck Dynasties, Dennis Rodman coaching basketball in North Korea, cute Hannah Montana becoming Miley Cyrus the wrecking ball and Lance Armstrong (and so many others before and certainly after him) confessing his selective sins to Oprah Winfrey—to spend time sharing about baptism’s meaning and value.
And yet I think, for pastors, it’s always been like that. The sacraments of the church have always been at odds with the odd world we live in. Continue reading →