Deep Waters

Sermon Series: Challenges for the Growing Church

Deep Waters

Pentecost

May 15, 2005

Acts 2:37-42

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Harry Heintz

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“ ‘Brothers, what should we do?’  Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.’”

 

Repentance isn’t just saying, “I’m sorry.”  That is remorse, but it’s not repentance.  My grandsons were quarreling a couple weeks ago.  Their mother heard the younger, Evan, saying to his brother, “I’m sorry.  Now you’re supposed to say, ‘That’s ok.’”  Teressa went in and sat them down.  “Brennan, what happened?”  “Evan hit me on the head with an airplane on purpose.”  She asked Evan, “Is that what happened?”  He got unusually quiet and looked off in the distance.  “Evan, did you hit your brother on the head with an airplane on purpose?”  He slowly looked at her with serious intent and said, “I think it was a helicopter.”  That was an apology, an explanation—it was far from repentance.

Peter linked repentance and baptism just as John the Baptist had. 

 

The baptismal waters are deep.  They need to be, for we need washing.  We honor two streams of baptism.  We baptize young children of believers and we baptize believers upon profession of faith.  I am a most unusual Presbyterian in this matter.  I keep a foot in each stream.  I love the biblical understanding of the covenant family.  When we baptize infants we know they can’t understand what’s happening.  We grab hold of what Peter said: “For the promise is for you, for your children . . . .”  The promise of God includes our children.  In infant baptism we are celebrating God’s saving work before the child understands it.  I love that bold statement of faith. 

 

The baptismal waters are deep.  They need to be, for we need washing.  In the baptism of a believer, whether a child, a youth, or an adult, we are recognizing a public profession of faith.  We hear Peter’s call and respond: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  In this confirmation class we have both streams represented.  I am thrilled about that.  In baptism we identify with Jesus as our savior, our Lord, and our friend.  That means a life of growth in grace, a life journey of salvation, a life of struggle as the old nature gives way to the new life in Christ.  There is nothing easy about following Jesus.  His grace is absolutely free—we can’t do a thing to earn God’s favor.  That grace then calls us to repent and follow and that is a lifetime journey.

 

Part of the allure of the ocean is its danger.  The tides that soothe us from the shore can toss us when we’re in the water.  The waters than can cleanse and calm us can also claim our lives.  Sometimes the waters warm us and sometimes they chill us.  The baptismal waters are deep.  They need to be, for we need washing. 

 

A little girl was shopping with her Mom.  It was pouring outside, the kind of rain that gushes over the top of rain gutters, so much in a hurry to hit the earth it has no time to flow down the spout.  They stood there with others under the awning looking for their car.  Some waited patiently, others irritated because nature messed up their hurried day. 

  --"Mom, let's run through the rain," she said.               

  --"What?" Mom asked.

  --"Let's run through the rain!" she repeated.

  --"No, honey.  We'll wait until it slows down a bit," Mom replied.

  --This young child waited a minute and repeated: "Mom, let's run through the rain."

  --"We'll get soaked if we do," Mom said.

  --"No, we won't, Mom.  That's not what you said this morning," the young girl said.

  --"This morning?  When did I say we could run through the rain and not get soaked?"

  --"When you were talking to Daddy about his cancer, you said, 'If God can get us     through this, he can get us through anything!’"

The crowd became silent.  You couldn't hear anything but the rain.  All stood silently for a few minutes.  The mother paused.  Some would laugh this off and scold the girl for being silly.  Some might ignore what was said.  But this was a moment of affirmation in a young person's life, a time when innocent trust can be nurtured so that it will bloom into mature faith.

 

"Honey, you are absolutely right.  Let's run through the rain.  If God lets us get wet, well maybe we just needed washing," Mom said.  Off they ran through the puddles getting soaked.  Others followed, screaming and laughing like children all the way to their cars.  We all need washing.

 

These words are for all of us, those baptized as young children, those baptized upon profession of faith, those being confirmed today, those being baptized today, and those yet to step into the deep waters of baptism: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”

 

The baptismal waters are deep.  They need to be, for we need washing. 

To contact Harry Heintz about this sermon, please email or write to: Brunswick Presbyterian Church, 42 White Church Lane, Troy, NY 12180