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"Baptismal Resistance" by Rev. Jillian Hankamer




May 21, 2023

Romans 6:1-14


I’m not much of a Christian music fan. Mostly because the theology often falls short or is just icky. If Christian music is your jam that’s wonderful! I hope it fills you with hope and joy. I just can’t get on board with most of what’s popular, though I must admit I have a soft spot in my heart for a musician named Kyle Matthews.


Though Kyle is now working as a minister in South Carolina in addition to being a professional musician, I first became aware of him as a 6th grader at SWBYC –Southwest Baptist Youth Camp. At that time SWBYC met at Austin College in Sherman, Texas and much like the model Northminster uses, my home church and about a dozen other churches met for youth camp. It was my first year and what I remember most is being hot, the stench of the mayonnaise factory not far from campus that permeated the heavy, sticky air, and Kyle’s music.


I realize now he was far too experienced and talented to be the musician at a summer youth camp and suspect he was there as a favor to old seminary buddies. But overqualified or not, Kyle was fantastic. His warmth, humor and thoughtfulness shined through his music which I remember being touched by even as a pre-teen. My dad was at camp as a chaperone, and we went home with several of Kyle’s CDs. This was the only Christian music my family listed to other than my mom’s Gaither VHS tapes she played during our Saturday house cleaning.


Kyle was back as our camp musician my second year and perhaps the year after that and each time he was wonderful. A couple of years into my tenure as a camper, however, Kyle moved on to other projects and camp was never quite the same for me. To this day his music continues to make me think and touches my heart. That’s likely why his song, “Been Through the Water” came echoing from my memory this week as I lived with Paul’s words about baptism in this Romans passage.



In this song Kyle tells a story I want you to hear:

Preacher pulled the boy up from the water

Alleluias rose from the bank

There was a new suit of clothes from his Father

And a prayer of thanks

The boy walked barefoot all the way home for dinner

And when they laughed at his muddy feet

He said, “I’ve been through the water and come out clean

Got new clothes to cover me

And you don’t wear your old shoes on your brand new feet

When you’ve been through the water”…[1]


In chapter just before this morning’s reading the Apostle Paul explains the concept of being justified through faith, that idea of our jagged edges being smoothed, and our being brought into alignment. He also goes on to say that through Christ, God’s grace is an answer for sin. However much we transgress, however often we miss the mark, “God’s grace in Jesus Christ [is]…abundantly greater.”[2]


Today’s reading is Paul’s response to potential questions and critics who might ask if we shouldn’t “keep on sinning so that God might go on showing us…grace.”[3] In other words, if grace abounds where sin increases, should we sin to make room for more grace? Or as one of the commentators I listened to this week said, she has a friend who likes to joke, “I love to sin and God loves to forgive,” which while true, is a misunderstanding of grace and not the attitude Paul is trying to inspire.


To combat this misunderstanding of sin and grace, Paul begins chapter 6 by talking about death – the death that happens in baptism. And let’s make no mistake, baptism is more complex than “going down and coming up again,”[4] it’s more nuanced than a cleansing, and there’s a reason you’ll often hear pastors say that we’re “buried with Christ in baptism.” As Paul highlights in this passage, a death occurs when you’re pushed under those baptismal waters. What makes that death bearable is that like Christ, you’re resurrected – or “raised to walk in newness of life.” What makes the death precious is though you die to who you were before entering that sacred space, you come out a new person. Still yourself but transformed by Christ. As commentator David Barlett notes, what changes in baptism “is pretty much what changed for Jesus in the…days between Good Friday and Easter morning.”[5] In that time, Christ moves from death to life and baptism we do the same.

Verse 2 of Kyle’s song continues the boy’s story:

Preacher turned them around at the altar

Pronounced the boy and his girl man and wife

In 2 years, they were Mother and Father

And they built them a life

His old girlfriend saw a moment of weakness

And she said, “If you’re lonely, come see me sometime”

He said, “I’ve been through the water and come out clean

Got new clothes to cover me

And you don’t wear your old shoes on your brand new feet

When you’ve been through the water….”[6]


For Paul, the idea of a believer being the same after dying with Christ in baptism is impossible. An oxymoron. Because as he says in verse 7, “For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” Baptism literally joins us to the death of Christ and in that death, we’re freed from the sin. But more importantly, our kitting together with the body of Christ crucified and raised is a “gift of grace that equips, powers, and frees us for resistance – that makes us part of the resistance movement.”[7]


Now you might hear the word “resistance” and have an emotional reaction. This word has certainly been part of the political zeitgeist the past few years and think that’s exactly why the I Love to Tell the Story podcast host used it in this conversation. This concept is part of the contemporary social consciousness. But I want it to be very clear that I’m not make a political point but rather preaching the Gospel of Christ which always been a resistance movement.

Since Jesus’ first criticism of the religious elite that put laws above people Christianity has been movement resisting thoughtless power. Since Jesus ate with tax collectors and the unclean Christianity has been a movement resisting discrimination. From the moment Jesus treated women with value and dignity, Christianity has been a movement resisting patriarchy. The dozens and dozens of times Jesus told us to care for the poor and welcome the outcast he modeled that Christianity is supposed to a movement that resists walls and exclusion and is instead built on radical hospitality and welcoming the stranger.


And here in Romans, Paul is helping us understand that our baptism into the death and resurrection life of Christ give us the power to resist – to resist sin and doubt, cruelty and judgment, despair and retaliation, shame and blame.

Here’s the final verse of Kyle’s song:

He baits a hook with his grandson of 7

Says, “Soon I’ll be free from this pain”

The boy asks if he’s ever been to heaven

He says, “No, but I think I know the way”

‘Cause I’ve been through the water

He said, “I’ve been through the water and come out clean

Got new clothes to cover me

And you don’t wear your old shoes on your brand new feet

When you’ve been through the water….”[8]


My friends, the Good News today is that our baptismal resistance is powered by resurrection. Through Christ, we are part of the resistance – a resistance that believes in the power of resurrection. A resistance that is grounded in hope. A resistance that is possible now, right now because we are resurrection people, thanks be to God, stitched together with Christ through the waters of baptism. Our baptismal resistance doesn’t make us perfect people. It doesn’t remove sin from our life or create a world in which temptation and heartache and despair no longer exist. But our resistance does “[give] us the power for life.”[9]

Our baptismal resistance reminds us to continually seek Christ’s compassion and justice in a confusing and contentious world. Our baptismal resistance reminds us to lead with grace and love. Our baptismal resistance empowers us to welcome those the world would turn away. And our baptismal resistance gives us the confidence even in moments of doubt and weakness to say to ourselves, to each other, and the world, “I’ve been through the water.”




[1] “Been Through the Water” from Kyle Matthews’ album See for Yourself [2] David Bartlett, “Commentary on Romans 6:1b-11” from www.workingpreacher.org [3] Ibid. [4] Ibid. [5] Ibid. [6] Matthews, ibid. [7] Rolf Jacobson, Craig R. Koester, and Kathryn M. Schifferdecker,I Love to Tell the Story podcast #366 “Hope of Resurrection.” [8] Matthews, ibid. [9] Jacobson, Koester, and Schifferdecker, ibid.

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