Here is a true story from United Airlines in Denver USA. A crowed United flight was canceled and a single agent was rebooking a long line of inconvenienced travelers. Suddenly an angry passenger pushed his way to the desk. He slapped his ticket down on the counter and said, "I HAVE to be on this flight and it has to be FIRST CLASS."
The agent replied, "I'm sorry sir. I'll be happy to try to help you, but I've got to help these folks first, and I'm sure we'll be able to work something out."
The passenger was unimpressed. He asked loudly, so that the passengers behind him could hear, "Do you have any idea who I am?"
Without hesitating, the gate agent smiled and grabbed her public address microphone.
"May I have your attention please?" she began, her voice bellowing throughout the terminal. "We have a passenger here at the gate WHO DOES NOT KNOW WHO HE IS. If anyone can help him find his identity, please come to gate 17."
We are often asked the question who are you? and our usual reply is to give our name, where we are from and what kind of work we do. The truth is we carry around a great deal of information concerning our identity – store loyality cards, credit cards photo ID in the form of driving licences or gymn membership.
Sometimes in visiting homes I see framed certificates indicating significant levels of achievement in the world of academia –degrees, courses undertaken etc but curiously I have never seen a marriage certificate framed and on the wall in a family home? In food outlets there are framed certificates on food hygiene (always a year out of date of course ) in church now we have to put up our insurance certificate to make people feel healthy and safe and in doctors surgeries or lawyers office certificates reassure us that the person on the other side of the desk really does know what they are talking about and are the person they claim to be.
There’s one piece of paper that I have, and maybe you do too tucked away safely in a shoebox or drawer. Like most certificates it doesn’t see the light of day very often. I’m talking about your baptismal certificate. Here is mine!
This certificate proves who you are but it has nothing to do with how clever you are, what schools you went to, what organisations you belong to or anything like that. This is one certificate you didn’t have to work for. It was given to you, not because you were particularly good, or because you have earned it in some way. Your baptismal certificate was simply given to you as an act of Love.
This certificate refers to something that God did for me. This doesn’t state what I did, it states who I am.
On the day of our baptism, through a very simple act involving a few drops of water along with God’s Name, a wonderful new relationship with God was begun. God did something for us. He made a commitment to each of us, to love us for eternity.
Nicodemus came to Jesus one night. He is curious and confused as the words of this “Man from God” seem to be at odds with his own understanding and religious practice. How ludicrous Nicodemus thinks when told he must be born again.
The new birth that Jesus is talking about is from above. Getting into the Kingdom of God is not something we are able to accomplish; it is something that comes "from above", given by God, freely and graciously.
Through our Baptism we are called into a relationship, called to be obedient to Christ, to follow Christ
Jesus’ call of grace always involves the response of obedience to follow him; it means commitment and dedication to his work through his church; it requires us as children of God to seek justice and mercy in the issues that arise in our community; it entails letting Christ’s love be our guiding force as we deal with those who challenge our patience; it means us being Christ to others.
My Baptism certificate is only a piece of paper. It has no magical powers. But it does remind me that God has given me the thumbs up. Our baptism tells us that we have God's tick of approval on us. Like me, you’ve probably got all kinds of documents and certificates that remind you of your achievements. Your baptism reminds you of what God has done for you and who you are – a child of God.