Baptism of Our Lord
“In those days, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.”
Does it strike you as odd that this King of kings, Lord of Lords – the Lord who has saved – takes his place in line among this eclectic group of rogues or otherwise ordinary folks like you and me, city sophisticates and country bumpkins, all confessing their sins and awaiting baptism in the River Jordan by John?
Jesus steps into the line. There is no fanfare for the Lord of Lords – he is not whisked to the front of the group. He doesn’t send his chief of staff over to whisper in John’s ear while he waits in his air-conditioned limo. He is not even acknowledged as a city sophisticate of Jerusalem. Being a Galilean from the remote town of Nazareth would render him in low standing in the eyes of many in the group. Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptizer in the Jordan was all rather non-sensational until God’s presence was made known in the voice of the Father and the Holy Spirit descending like a dove.
Jesus’ baptism was not so unlike our baptisms. And, because Jesus was baptized, we, too, may share in that baptism. In baptism we are united with the Son – the Lord of Lords, we hear the voice of the Father, and we experience the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Our baptism is an outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace of God’s redemption of all creation. Our baptism is the visible and spiritual initiation into the Body of Christ where we are surrounded by those who pledge before God to nurture us in the Christian faith and the love of Christ.
In baptism, we are sealed as Christ’s own forever – forever, all day, every day. We are called to be aware of being sealed into the Body of Christ – aware day and night of God’s presence with us and our call to the mission of Christ every day and night.
This coming week on Wednesday evening, we will begin a series of exercise classes led by parishioner April Sethmann. Together, we will exercise for an hour each week for the next six weeks.
Now, that one hour of exercise will be a wonderful thing; it will contribute to better health. We share camaraderie with others in the class; we gain knowledge of the essential elements of healthy living; we use muscles that have been dormant too long. But, none of us is so foolish as to believe that that one hour alone will produce a physically fit body. None of us is so foolish to believe that we can spend the other six evenings of the week kicked back in our easy chairs, munching potato chips and sipping Pepsi, and be healthy simply because we spent or intend to spend one hour per week exercising.
Ideally, our one-hour session under April’s guidance will increase our awareness of our need to be more physically active each day and eat more healthy foods. Ideally, we will feel healthier, more energetic, and more positive focused. Ideally, our lifestyle will be changed for the better simply as the result of our one hour per week class with April’s guidance; ideally, we will live into better health.
We are called to live into our baptism in a similar way. Living into our baptism is something far beyond attending worship one hour per week, checking that off our list, ignoring the presence of the Holy Spirit in the other 167 hours.
Living into our baptism is much more than consciously deciding we are going to do “something nice” for someone; once accomplished, we can pat ourselves on the back and check that off our list as we would check off a brisk walk before returning to the recliner and our bag of chips.
When we renew our Baptismal Covenant [see below], as we will do today most appropriately, we commit to continuing the Apostle’s teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers. We commit to resisting evil and returning to the Lord through repentance from sin. We commit to proclaiming the Good News of Christ through word and example. We commit to seeking and serving Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves, striving for justice and peace. We commit to respecting the dignity of every human being.
Our Baptismal Covenant is not something we turn on and off with conscious effort or convenience. Our Baptismal Covenant is not something reserved for the saints – our Baptismal Covenant applies to us as individuals and as the Church – all day, every day.
When we exercise and commit ourselves to better physical health, we take on that new, improved lifestyle. When we exercise and commit ourselves to better spiritual health, we take on that new, improved lifestyle.
Because Jesus was baptized, we, too, may share in that baptism. In baptism we are united with the Son – the Lord of Lords, we hear the voice of the Father, and we experience the presence of the Holy Spirit.
“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. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’” [NRSV Mark 1:11]
With God’s help, we live into our baptism at all times and in all places, and with us, God is well pleased. Amen