Today, on this Trinity Sunday, we have the honor of being present for the baptism of Jess David Kopperud. And he is going to be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. What does it mean to be baptized in this particular name? I’d like to look at some of the implications for Jess and for all of us.
First, he will be baptized in the name of the Father. In the Apostle’s Creed we confess that this Father is the creator of heaven and earth. Now we can interpret this to mean that God is a Father on a magnificent and vast scale; God the father of all nations and creatures; God the father of the whole cosmos. And that’s true enough. But we don’t confess that God is our Father because of his universal paternity. We confess that God is our father because that is the way Jesus refers to him, over and over again. And we confess that God is our father because of what Paul said in his Letter to the Romans, which we heard last week. Paul writes, “When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God…” And we confess that God is our Father because when the disciples asked Jesus how to pray he taught them to say, “Our Father in heaven…” Luther explains further, “God encourages us to believe that he is truly our Father and we are his children. We therefore are to pray to him with complete confidence just as children speak to their loving father.”
Jess, you have a wonderful daddy whom you already know. But you also have a heavenly Father whom you will spend your whole life getting to know, calling to him for help, trusting him with everything. He is not distant from you, but as close as these words in your ears. And he will hear you when you speak to him.
Second, Jess will be baptized in the name of the Son. This Son is also God, but is not the same as the Father. The Son is how God showed himself to us, first as a baby in a stable at Bethlehem - and then as the man Jesus who showed and spoke the love that each man and woman who met him needed to hear. There is so much that we cannot know about God the Father, but he sent his Son Jesus so that we could know what God was like and what his intentions for us are. Paul writes in his Letter to the Philippians, “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.”
Jess, through Jesus the Son you know the lengths to which God will go to be near to you and to love you in a way that you can understand. And in Jesus you will hear words of love: tough love when you are stubborn and erring; merciful and tender love when you are broken.
And third, Jess will be baptized in the name of the Holy Spirit. This Holy Spirit is the form of God who is hardest for us to understand. What is he like? (Notice I say “he”, not “it.” Not because the Holy Spirit is male, but because the Spirit is a person, not a thing.) So what is the Spirit like? Jesus compares the Spirit to the wind, which is something we can’t see, but can see the effects of. So the Holy Spirit is hard to imagine, but we can notice what he does. What does he do? It is the Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. So the Spirit brings life. When Jesus talks about the Spirit, he calls him the Advocate, or helper. So the Spirit is among us to help and to guide. One of the particular things that the Spirit helps us with is understanding the Word of God. So the Holy Spirit is a teacher.
Jess, you will have a helper for the rest of your life, preserving your life now – and one day raising you to eternal life. And as you learn about God and study the Bible, it is the Holy Spirit who will be your teacher and who will open your eyes to the goodness and holiness of God, the wonder of God’s creation and those things which are expected of you as a worker in his kingdom.
This is all just a hint of the reality, really. The larger point that I am trying to make, is that our God is known to us in particular and distinct ways. We know him and relate to him as our Father. We know him and relate to him as the Son, Jesus. And we know him and relate to him as the Holy Spirit. Each of these forms gives us a different understanding of the OneGod who graciously chooses us, who calls us into his service in this life, and who will take us to be with himself when this life is over.
And so then, Jess, and all of you baptized:
· Your lives are an opportunity to know this God who has graciously made himself known to you.
· Your lives are an opportunity to serve this God who, in Jesus Christ, has served you.
· Your lives are an opportunity to love this God who first loved you.