In “preaching study” posts, I share study & reflection as I prepare the Sunday message . I welcome interaction in this process, so feel free to share your thoughts. All Scripture quotes are from the NRSV unless otherwise noted. Thanks!
This Sunday I have the distinct honor and privilege of preaching at my brother’s church (he’s a UM pastor too) and baptizing my niece. Although I don’t consider myself bound to the lectionary, I do typically check what the readings are just to start somewhere, particularly if I’m preaching a stand-alone sermon. Now, there are plenty of good, instructive texts on baptism that I could simply have gone to for my study in preparation for this sermon, but the Revelation 1:4-8 text from the lectionary readings for the day grabbed hold of me. You can read it in the NRSV here.
The parts I’m following in particular are v5b-6:
“To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
“‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
A few thoughts I’ve had about my sermon thus far as I’ve been thinking over this passage. First, that baptism is itself doxological; it is an event, a ritual, a sacrament that embodies an expression of praise and thanksgiving to God on the part of the community of faith. That’s why I’m attracted to v5b-6. It is a doxology, so is baptism.
Second, the three-fold description of Christ in this doxology speaks to what baptism proclaims and embodies: (1) Jesus’ love for us, (2) His sacrifice on the cross that frees us from our sin, and (3) His claiming us to be ministers in his service. There is always more that we can say about baptism, but this doxology says a lot right there.
Third, in v8, the Lord God refers to himself as “Alpha and Omega…who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” All of life is enveloped by the presence of God the Almighty, who is Alpha and Omega: beginning, end, and everything in between. The mind-blowing magnificence of that verse is powerful. This is the One whose Life we are included in through baptism. What a grand and magnificent thing that is! To be incorporated into the community of people who are, by grace, sharing in the very Life of God is a great gift. And to be incorporated into that Life is to be initiated into a life of discipleship, or as Dallas Willard so wonderfully puts it, apprenticeship to Jesus.
Fourth, I cannot help but think that the proclamation of the book of Revelation as a whole is tremendously significant on the occasion of baptism. Revelation proclaims that God has won the ultimate victory and that we can endure all trials that we face as persons called by the name of Christ (that is, baptized) because we have a certain future hope in Christ. That is always a timely word for all the baptized who endeavor daily to live out and into the covenant that was declared on the day that the community prayed over us and put water on us (or put us into water) in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.