The Baptism of Our Lord (1/8/2012)

Lessons:Genesis 1:1-5 Psalm 29 Acts 19:1-7 St. Mark 1:4-11

Prayer of the Day: Holy God, creator of light and giver of goodness, your voice moves over the waters. Immerse us in your grace, and transform us by your Spirit, that we may follow after your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

1.4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." 9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."


Mark 1:4-11 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Fully and Completely One of Us

There are very few symbols that stand as close to the heart of our faith as Baptism. A helpless young baby is handed to the Pastor, who holds the child over a font. Water moves. Words are spoken. Perhaps the baby cries, or sleeps, or looks around in wonder… and a life is changed forever. Years before a child will ever understand what has taken place, God’s claim is laid on this one’s heart. God takes the first step in the long journey that becomes a life of faith. Grace is shared. Forgiveness is promised. Eternity is proclaimed. There are indeed very few symbols that stand as close to the heart of our faith as Baptism.

On this coming Sunday, the first Sunday in the mid-winter season called Epiphany, it is our tradition to turn our attention to the baptism of Jesus. From a visual perspective, there isn’t much that it has in common with baptisms we experience today. Jesus walks out into the heavy waters of the river Jordan with John. John takes Jesus by the head, forces him under, raises him up again, and looks on with wonder as the Spirit bursts from the clouds, and the voice of God booms across the waters: "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased." The Spirit moves, God speaks, and the world is forever changed. Immanuel has arrived. Salvation is at hand. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world is about to begin his public ministry.

The baptism of Jesus (along with the descent of the Spirit, the proclamation of God, and the witness of John) is a sign to the people of his day — a sign that something extraordinary is beginning among them. Despite centuries of speculation, the church has never been able to agree on a reason why Jesus needs to be baptized. God simply desires to become one of us — fully and completely one of us. And so when the people of that day go out to hear the fiery preacher in the wilderness, Jesus goes with them. When they become convinced of their sin, and request the waters of John’s baptism as a sign of their new intent in life, Jesus goes with them. When John thrusts their heads into the current, and hauls them up into a new life, Jesus goes with them — fully and completely one of us.

Yet different. God’s Son. The One whom God loves. The One who pleases God. And as God’s Son, One whose life and death and resurrection and ascension will give baptism an entirely new meaning. No longer does baptism only signify our brokenness, and our need to turn back towards God. Now baptism is also a symbol of the death and resurrection of Jesus. In baptism, we are joined to his death. In baptism we are promised his resurrection. The One who becomes one of us — fully and completely one of us — now promises that we will become one with God — fully and completely one with God — in new life.

There are very few symbols that stand as close to the heart of our faith as Baptism does. In the waters of baptism, God’s claim is laid on our hearts. God takes the first step in the long journey that becomes a life of faith. Grace is shared. Forgiveness is promised. Eternity is proclaimed.

May the baptism of Jesus be a sign for us of the depths of God’s love, expressed in a sacred desire to become fully one of us.  May the waters of our own baptism become a sign of the grace that we have received, and the call that God extends for us to be witnesses to that grace in our world.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What images do you carry of Jesus’ baptism?
  2. What did God’s announcement on that day mean?
  3. How is John’s “Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” different from being baptized “into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?”

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What do I know about the day of my baptism?
  2. What promises have I received from God in the waters of my baptism?
  3. How have I been anointed, through baptism, to be a witness to Jesus Christ in this world?