As part of a Lutheran Youth Encounter International Team Ministry to the South Pacific (Hawaii, American Samoa, Western Samoa, Fiji, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea), we spent fifteen months in a variety of ministry assignments. At a festival worship service on Easter Sunday, 1976, in the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea nearly 3,000 people were baptized in the river which was down the hill from where everyone was gathered for this Resurrection Festival Service. The baptismal liturgy was conducted in the tribal Papua New Guinea language and then translated into Pidgin so that baptismal sponsors from other parts of the country could be a vital part of the service. When the baptismal declaration was announced--much like that of Jesus' baptismal declaration in the Jordan River: "You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased"--there were wild shouts of victory and celebration because Jesus through the Holy Spirit had made 3,000 people his own through the waters of baptism.
Each day we are reminded of our entrance into the Christian faith through our baptism. When we gather together publicly in worship, there should be shouts of celebration along with the songs of praise and thanksgiving just like for those people in Papua New Guinea. There, and in so many other places around the world, God calls us into deeper relationship with God through God's son as God declares to each of us how special we are as God's children, now prepared and sent to participate in ministry with God.
Lord of the nations, you draw all people to yourself in so many ways. Give us the desire and power to grasp the significance of your love as you continue to declare how special we are—from remembering our baptism and sharing your love in the ministries in which we are involved. Amen.
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 (NRSV)
15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah,
16 John answered all of them by saying, "I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."
21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened,
22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."