Sunday, January 13 2019
Almost 40 years ago, Nancy Fees wrote a song titled I Have Called You by Name, a song that focuses, in part, on baptism and its attendant responsibilities. Below are the refrain and the third verse:
Refrain: I have called you by name and you are mine.
Verse 3: I have washed you in refreshing cleansing waters;
I have included only this verse because it is the one linked most closely to baptism and this morning's gospel.
At baptism, even at the baptism of Jesus, is the call of Jesus Christ that summons each of us from whatever we are doing as it echoes through the pews of our churches, the corridors of our work places, the streets of our towns, and calls each of us by name as it proclaims, “Take up your cross and follow me.” One of the first things one notices about Nancy's song is that it is an attempt to articulate a simple truth about God's desire to maintain a special relationship with his people, a special relationship initiated in baptism as the child is named. Though the child does not yet know it, though the parents perhaps haven't thought much about it, this is the moment that one can begin to discover just who he is. In the process of that discovery, one's entire existence begins to be re-shaped and takes on new substance. This simple act of naming and calling declares ultimately that who one is gives way to who one is in Jesus Christ.
Nancy's song commences with the refrain and we are plunged immediately into an affirmation of the integral nature of God's relationship with us. That relationship is announced in all tenses—past, present, and future—and is repeated at the end of each verse: God has called us; we are his; he will keep us. Cemented in the fact that each of us bears the divine imprint and is meant to reflect the Lord as he lives in us, we discover an intimacy that is deeper than any human relationship. To live this out is to enter into the process of who we really are.
The final verse (printed above) recalls for us our baptisms, that ancient rite that incorporated each of us into Christ's body, the Church. To be “washed in refreshing, cleansing waters” is not some empty ritual, but an act that refreshes, that renews, that erases the stain of sin. Fully initiated into Christ's body, we are now prepared for what Alan Jones defines as the “journey into Christ.” When we “go into the world as [his] disciples” to “share [his] light,” we confess that he is the blueprint for what it means to be fully and gloriously human. As we continue our journeys into the risen Christ that were begun at baptism, let us remember the call of our names imagined by Fr. John Stott, Anglican priest, biblical scholar, and evangelist: “Yes, I do know who I am, a new person in Christ, and by the grace of God I shall live accordingly.”
With all blessings,