You are what you do. Worse. You are what you’ve done. If the room’s ever gone quiet when you walked in, you get it. If you have a past everyone talks about, or even one nobody talks about, you understand. If you’ve ever lost sleep wondering what people think or wishing to go back in time, you know. You are what you do. Sometimes that’s not a good thing. Because folks don’t forget. And the hope that we can be the hero enough times to make people remember that instead of the mistake, the incident, the sin…well..what do you like to talk about more?
God gave us the 8th commandment. You shall not bear false testimony against your neighbor. We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt our neighbors reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way. Except churches tend to gossip so much that it’s harder to be a sinner here than anywhere else. In the house God built to forgive sins.
Because deep down it’s what we’d expect from God no matter how often we’re told He loves everyone. It’s so much of what we teach our kids. Jesus loves you, so behave. Some write them songs about it. O be careful little hands what you do, O be careful little hands what you do, There’s a Father up above, And He’s looking down in love, So, be careful little hands what you do. Watch where you go because Jesus loves you. Watch what you see and say and hear.
It’s so much of what we reinforce to our adults. Jesus loves everyone, but did you hear? It doesn’t sound like a God who won’t break bruised reeds or quench faintly burning wicks. It sounds like God’s really only concerned with making sure you’re called by what you do if you sin. I guess that’s a God who brings justice, but not one who takes you by the hand and keeps you, not one who gives help to prisoners in darkness.
And so you see how people treat this place. The house God built to forgive sinners becomes the place where the good little eyes and ears gather, who don’t have soiled hands and feet, who always do what they’re supposed to. The place to be avoided if you actually need love or help, or God forbid, forgiveness. Whoever wrote that evil little song didn’t know God. For all we identify each other based on what we do, we seem to expect something different from God.
God is what He does. Today, He gets baptized. Jesus goes out to the Jordan with sinners and tax collectors. He goes out to something that forgives sins and wades down into waters soiled by unclean hands and feet, to be spoken to by prophet who’s not careful what he says. The sky is ripped open, and unclean eyes see a dove and unclean ears hear a voice, and we see exactly who God is.
Jesus gets baptized. It’s the beginning of a ministry where He fulfills all righteousness. He becomes like us. He who knew no sin becomes sin for us. He takes upon himself everything we hate about ourselves and each other. He carries our sin to the cross and He dies. On the cross His all righteousness becomes yours. Sin is atoned for. Death is destroyed. He rises. All of it was for you.
You’re baptized too. Your baptism is into Him. You are baptized into His righteousness. He takes on Your sin and bears the wrath of God for it. You take on His holiness. You put on Christ in that font. God knows you based on this. All of your sins were placed on Christ, everything you’ve ever done that you wish didn’t define you, everything worthy of punishment, everything that makes you feel ashamed, it was paid for by Him. Your identity is baptized.
This is beloved child, with whom I am well pleased. God says that to you now. Your baptism is into this moment, this declaration, this promise. Your identity is not what you have done, or didn’t do. It’s this. You’re baptized. You are baptized where they stare at you, and baptized where they talk about you. Every accusation leveled against you gets taken from you and placed upon Christ who bore it willingly. All that’s left is holy, righteous, child of God. That’s who you are. Christ took all the sin. It’s finished. You are holy and worthy of love. The Father is well pleased with you.
And it will make no sense to anyone on the outside. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God chose to love what is low and despised in the world. God chose to love you. So powerful is his love that it brings to nothing everything that they would call you. Now you are not what you have done. The only thing left to call you is what God’s done for you. You are baptized. You are baptized in the church, where God in His mercy continues to pour out true love, forgiveness, peace. That’s why we have this building. It’s not for the good to get better and look down on the rest. It’s for the sinners to get more mercy. So He pours it out over and over again, that the sinners and the despised can turn in here to listen to remember who they really are.
We are the baptized. Jesus is the source of our life. He is our boast, our identity, our everything will be in the Lord. Our God got baptized for us.