After college, when I was first starting out, I became a member of the Lion’s Club in downtown McAllen where I was living. This club was one of “THE” clubs to belong to and was the well-known rival of the downtown Rotary Club. As a member, I had the opportunity to purchase one of the coveted symbols of club membership — the official Lion’s Club yellow vest. A member’s prominence and longevity in the club was made obvious to all by the number and specialty of pins and badges displayed on one’s vest. Club old-timers had pins from the various worldwide Lion’s Club Association conventions and meetings along with badges designating their accomplishments and positions held within the club. Even though I haven’t been a Lion’s Club member for some time, I still have my vest!
The vest was a symbol that identified us as different from other groups. As Lion’s Club members we were known for our civic-mindedness and our involvement with children. The vest was worn with a sense of pride and respect for the club’s mission and history.
Have you ever been a member of a club like the Lion’s Club or maybe Rotary or the Shriners? Or, maybe you have been a member of a sorority or fraternity. Involvement in a club often comes with some exclusive or distinct way of identifying its members — like the Lion’s Club yellow vest or a secret handshake! The identifiers can include special clothing, unique hats, or distinctive names. Whatever the symbol might be, the purpose is to distinguish its members — members who are a part of something special.
This Sunday, according to the liturgical calendar, is “Baptism of our Lord” Sunday. Our scripture text comes from the Gospel of Mark and includes the story of Jesus’ baptism by John in the Jordan River. Through this text, we are given the opportunity to reaffirm our own baptism and the blessings and responsibilities baptism places upon our life. Baptism is a symbol of our membership into God’s family as sons and daughters. Baptism is a sacrament, an outward sign of God’s grace freely given to us. Baptism is also a sign of God’s promise given to us to always be with us and to always love us solely because we are God’s beloved child. Membership in this family is chosen by God, and thanks be to God, God chooses all of us!
Baptism is also the door through which we enter the church. As members of God’s family, when we are baptized we are also initiated into Christ’s holy church. As we grow and mature in our faith, we are continually challenged to reaffirm that faith in Christ and our commitment to the Kingdom of God. Each time we reaffirm our faith we also recommit OUR promise to God — our promise to use our gifts to strengthen the church and to transform the world.
Baptism could be, in at least a couple of ways, thought of as an invisible Lion’s Club yellow vest! Baptism, like the yellow vest, is a coveted symbol of membership. Baptism, like the yellow vest, only has real significance to the receiver if he or she is willing to invest the hard work, commitment, sacrifice, and respect it needs. And baptism, like the yellow vest, identifies the receiver as different from other groups.
As members of Christ’s holy church and as followers of Christ, we are challenged to be different from the world. We are challenged to reflect Christ’s light in the midst of the darkness and suffering of the world. We are challenged to be different in our actions, our values, and our walk from those of this world. Where greed seems to reign, we are to be generous. Where fear seems to rule, we are to love. Where separation and division seem to dominate, we are to invite, include, and unite.
I hope you will join us in DiscipleChurch this Sunday as we explore what this “being different” might look like for us.