This past Sunday (yesterday) the Gospel text was from Matthew 22:15-22. It is the text where the religious leaders are trying to trap Jesus by asking him whether it is lawful to pay the tax to Caesar. After Jesus asks for the coin used for the tax and after quizzing the quizzers on who’s image and inscription is on the coin, Jesus says:
“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s“.
Jesus never directly answers the question. He never says whether it is lawful or not. Jesus simply states what is truly important; leaving the quizzers speechless.
So on Sunday I talked about being marked. The coin was marked and so are we.
We are “sealed with the Holy Spirit and MARKED with the cross of Christ forever.” (from the order of Baptism in the Evangelical Lutheran Worship book)
So what does this really mean for you and for me? What does it mean to be marked?
(1) It is about placing a claim on something (or someone). You claim a brand new car by putting a license plate on it. You claim a household pet by putting a collar/tag on it. God places a claim on us in baptism through the mark of Christ ~ the cross. God says to you through baptism, “You are mine“.
(2) The mark says something about the claimer. A car license plate says a lot about the person who claimed (bought) the car. An animal tag says something about who owns that pet. The mark of Christ, the cross, shows us how serious God is about us. Jesus went to the cross, an instrument of torture and death. The cross shows us how much God loves us. Indeed…the mark says a lot about God’s love for you.
(3) Lastly…marking something says something about the claimed. You don’t mark something if you don’t intend to claim or redeem it. You only mark something that has value. The very fact that Jesus went so far as the cross and that through baptism we are sealed and marked with the sign of the cross, says that we are valuable (to put it mildly). God has claimed us and through faith in Christ, God intends to redeem us.
So at the end of the sermon I invited people to come forward to the baptismal font to receive the sign of the cross on their foreheads. I told the people that this is NOT because their mark from their own baptism has worn off, but rather this is a simple reminder that they are claimed by God.
One by one people came forward. I dipped my finger in the water; making the sign of the cross on their foreheads, I said these words: “Child of God, you have been sealed with the Holy Spirit and MARKED with the cross of Christ forever.” It was a very powerful moment for me; to see most everyone come forward to acknowledge their gift of baptism.
As Martin Luther told people, I encouraged people whenever they splash water on their face, let the water remind them of their baptism. Make the sign of the cross on your own forehead and say, “I am baptized“. What a great way to start your day.
Reflect on your own baptism today (and everyday for that matter). Consider the MARK God has placed on you. Contemplate the fact that God considers you valuable. Ponder the lengths Jesus went to in order to show how serious he is about you. And rejoice in God’s love for you.
What an awesome God we have!