God’s boundless promise

Posted on January 16, 2020 by ELCA Youth Gathering
by: Claire Embil

This week, I had the opportunity to preach about the Baptism of our Lord in Matthew chapter 3. This is a story that perfectly exemplifies God’s boundlessness. Jesus is claimed by God as the beloved son before he has accomplished anything, no healing, no miracles.

In today’s society, it’s so easy to only present the image of ourselves that we want the world to see, and our worth becomes tied to clicks, likes and views. You could be smart, talented, beautiful, but the world says, “Ok, prove it.” I think a lot about how radical and spectacular it is to be claimed as beloved without having to prove yourself. We don’t have to prove ourselves for baptism. God’s grace knows no qualifications.

There is nothing we have to do, that could make us worthy of the love and grace that God extends to us through baptism. It is important to strive to be our best selves, but God already thinks we are worthy and beloved. God promises us this undeserved, unconditional, unending grace that we never had to earn because baptism is not about our commitment to God. Baptism is about God’s commitment to us.

That main theme of this text is particularly important to me because it took me a long time to learn. Back when I was getting confirmed, I think I did so begrudgingly, and not because I didn’t want to be confirmed. I very much did, but because I knew that confirmation is the affirmation of baptism.

I was baptized in the Catholic church and my family didn’t come to a Lutheran church until I was 2. The closer we got to Confirmation Day, the more I felt a nagging sense that I didn’t belong. As we talked more about our baptismal promises, I began to talk to my pastors and my youth leaders about getting re-baptized. I very quickly found out that’s not an option. Jesus wasn’t baptized Lutheran so why did I have to be? I knew that we “acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins,” but I still wanted to be re-baptized. I felt like I had to do something to fit into this family. It took me a little bit to learn that anything I thought I could’ve done was already done for me through the waters of baptism, the first time. No repeat needed.

Claire Embil is a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying English creative writing, religious studies and photography. She is actively involved with the ELCA Young Adult Leadership team, the ELCA Youth Gathering, Wisconsin Campus Ministry, Lutheran Student Movement, and competitive gymnastics.

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