November 15,1959 was not a date my family taught me to celebrate. In some ways I wish they had. On that date God’s eternal plans forged with my name on it first intersected my life directly. On that date in Caledonia, Minnesota, water and Word connected a renegade creature of God to what happened at the Jordan River. There the perfect Son of God identified with sinners like me so that I might be forever identified with a holy one like him.
On November 15,1959, God was saying in my hearing what he once said in the hearing of his eternal Son: “You are my [s]on, whom I love, with you I am well pleased.” Yes, I know, the words had even a deeper significance spoken over Jesus since it identified our humble brother clothed in our flesh as the essential Son of God eternally one with the Father. Yet because he became my brother and stood in the baptism of sinners where I would one day be found, it is also true of me that I am a full rights and privileges son of God with whom the Father has declared his perfect pleasure in his perfect Son (I am, after all, clothed with his life).
Nothing can change what God declared about me on that day. God remains faithful even should I prove faithless. Yet few things can ruin faster my enjoyment now and forever of what happened on November 15,1959 than failing to remember that every day is to be a repeat celebration of that day.
Everyday my baptism is and always remains a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Every day the proud, boastful, self-seeking renegade that used-to-be-me wants to reassert himself. Every day it is pivotal to watch for every sign of his attempted renaissance. Every day that used-to-be-me must die again. For, as paradoxical as it sounds, in dying anew we live anew. There in the ever new gift of forgiveness is a refreshing resurrection of renewed strength breathed on us by God’s Spirit.
There, not in my anxious strivings, will I find the power and strength to live all my God-given callings–by the power of the gospel. There is the strength to be the mask of God he has called me to be as a husband, father, grandfather, professor, CE director, citizen, friend, neighbor, congregational and synod member.
So maybe it was OK that my family never celebrated my baptismal day. After all, because of the baptism of our Lord, and the connection made to him in my own baptism, every day is November 15,1959.
Which means, my brothers, I can wish each of you a happy return of whatever day that was. For without fail it is true that today is the day for you to celebrate its death and resurrection again! May God give you many, many, many happy returns of the day!