By Sam Gutierrez
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Two weeks ago, I shared this story. It’s so good, I wanted to share it again:
Some folks who attend Alger and watch our online worship services said that when they ask their two year-old, “Who is on the screen?” he responds – “Pastor Sam!” Then they ask – “what does Pastor Sam do?” The child responds – “Pours water!” They followed up by saying that during bath time, he practices pouring water just like Pastor Sam does on the video.
Over the next few weeks, I want to explore the sacrament of Baptism. Today, I’m going to highlight one major theme: the forgiveness of sins.
When we talk about baptism, we use the term “sacrament.” The word sacrament comes from a Greek word in the new testament, “mysterion” – meaning “mystery” or “a thing hidden.” When some hear the word “mystery” they throw up their arms in frustration as if to say, “I can’t know, so why even try?” A better definition of mystery is "endlessly knowable". This puts us in the posture of humble seeker – continually pressing in to uncover and discover layers and layers of God’s Trinitarian love and life.
A sacrament is a means of grace. In Baptism we experience grace in an audio/visual way – we hear and see grace being poured out and splashing around. When we baptize someone, we see grace saturate the forehead, run down cheeks and soak clothing. Baptism is powerful and moving, but baptism does not save us. It never could. Water just isn’t strong enough.
To put it plainly – water can wash dirt from the body, but it can’t wash sin from the heart.
The Bible is clear that only Jesus can save us. Only his blood is powerful enough to cleanse our hearts stained by sin. Baptism is an arrow pointing to the cross. As we get older and the depth of our sin becomes more obvious, we can find it hard to truly believe that God forgives us fully and completely. So God finds another way of communicating his grace – giving us water to point us to his work on the cross. Just like water washes the body, Jesus’ blood washes our hearts and makes us clean.
The sacrament of Baptism is not only a sign pointing us to Jesus’ death on a cross 2000 years ago, it’s also a seal. That means that that the saving work of Jesus applies to you. Yes, you are the recipient of God’s amazing grace.
For this week, I’d like to encourage you to touch your forehead and say the words “I’m baptized.” Then, touch your forehead and say “I’m forgiven.” When we do this, we acknowledge that we can do nothing to purge our heart from sin. We are completely dependent upon the grace of God. It’s important to remember that the sacraments are primarily about God. The pouring of water shows us that God’s love and generosity is something that God is freely pouring down upon us.