Earlier this morning, we baptized Ezekiel in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And many of us in this room, at one point or another in our lives, experienced that same gift, that same blessing. But what does that actually mean? How is Ezekiel’s life any different now than it was the day before? How is your life different because of your baptism?
A couple of years ago, I was sitting in a presentation on preaching and the guy leading the class used the text we just read from Ruth as an example. In that example, he framed Ruth’s declaration of loyalty as a way to explain what is going on whenever someone is baptized. She says to Naomi in Ruth 1:16-17, “where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” That is a powerful statement of action, of identity, and of commitment. That is a powerful statement that accurately describes what happened this morning, what happened when each of us who have been baptized went to the font.
Peter writes this “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.”
In baptism, God promises salvation to you and to I. This morning God’s promise to Ezekiel is “where you go, I will go and where you rest, I will rest.” In each of our baptisms, God’s promise resounds that He will be with us wherever we go, that He will be with us wherever we rest. Every moment of your life, no matter how dark and no matter how difficult and no matter how hopeless it is - God is right there with you. And sometimes that can be incredibly hard to see, but in those moments - go to a sink, run your fingers under the water, and make the sign of the cross. Remember your baptism and know that God’s presence with you is just as real as the water on your forehead. In baptism, we are adopted as sons and daughters of God and that comes with the promise of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives.
And it is that same Holy Spirit that changes who we are, that changes what we are. Galatians 3:27-4:5 tells us that “as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
When Ruth makes her declaration to Naomi, she says “your people will be my people, and your God my God.” Ruth is saying that she is going to leave behind her family, her country, , her culture, her people and their gods - all those pieces that make up her identity, and take up Naomi’s people and Naomi’s God. It’s kinda what it looks like when you join a fan base - whether it’s a fan base of a sports team or a science fiction franchise or a TV drama. When you first start identifying with that fan base, you’re probably not as deep into it as other fans. You’ll say “I root for that team” or “I watched the Star Wars movies” or “I watch Survivor/the Bachelor/Master Chef/whatever” - but you don’t know all the background, all the traditions, all of the history. But the longer you’re a fan, the longer you spend time with other fans and learning from people who have been fans for longer, the more you start to look like a true fanatic. Your jersey collection and invisible bag of sports grudges starts to grow, the number of YouTube videos you’ve watched or books you’ve read about the topic gets ridiculous, the number of seasons you can personally remember is almost embarrassing. And before long, everyone who knows you also knows that you are a fan of that team or series or show.
In baptism, our identity becomes a child of God. And the longer we spend around other children of God, the more time we spend learning about God and His Word, the more fully we start to look and act and speak like a child of God. Our baptism is a gift, and it gives us a new identity, and our challenge is to strive to live up to that identity. To be faithful to this strange, new community that is shaped by the knowledge of how God is with us. To declare with the Christians beside us, your people are my people and your God is my God.
And that knowledge that defines our community, that knowledge of how God is with us, that continues into eternity. Ruth promises Naomi that “where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.” And that might not seem like something worth celebrating, that might not seem like something worth promising each other, but Romans tells us this.
Romans 6:3–4 (ESV)
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
When Ezekiel was baptized this morning, he was baptized into a relationship with a God who promises to walk with him through his whole life. He was baptized into a community of believers that are united by something greater than anything else in all of creation. And he was baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, he was baptized into the promise of eternal life based, not on our goodness or our work, but instead on the work of Jesus. And in a little bit, when we celebrate Communion together, the baptismal font will still be up here. And I invite you, as you walk by, to dip your fingers in the water and to make the sign of the cross as a reminder of your baptism. Because you too are baptized into a relationship with God who promises to walk beside you, you too are baptized into a community of believers united by something greater, and you too are baptized into the promise of eternal life - and those realities of your baptism can never be taken from you, they are thicker than blood and deeper than bone. Amen.