In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
-Mark 1:9 (NRSV)
He came from Nazareth, a podunk northern border town, to submit to his eccentric cousin’s baptism of repentance – “Jesus from Nowheresville,” as Ched Myers says in his book Binding the Strong Man (p. 128). With the crowd Jesus comes to the Jordan, and as he emerges from the water the heavens rip open, the Spirit descends, and God proclaims delight.
No fanfare. No media blitz. No mention of a dazzled and adoring public. Nothing out of the ordinary marks this watershed event where the Divine One again shows solidarity with frail and fallen humankind. Nothing would ever be the same, and yet life went on as usual.
Perhaps you came to baptism cradled in your parents’ arms. Water and Word combined to make the moment holy; you were “sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever” (ELW p. 231). Maybe like Jesus you came as an adult and were immersed by the lakeshore on a warm summer day, water and Word comingling in that sacred life-changing instant. However it happened, you were changed, promises were made, and life went on as usual.
On Sunday the church will celebrate this moment in Jesus’ life. Many of us participate in an affirmation of baptism, while others will begin their Christian journey at the font. Whatever the case, we will recognize and listen for the wind of the Spirit blowing across the waters and in our lives. Through Scripture, sermon, and song we will acknowledge how God brings order from chaos and re-creates in us something new, a something new that we all to often fail to identify and own. Just what are we to make of this baptismal identity, and what does it mean, as someone once pondered, “to walk wet in this world”?
Let me rephrase that question. Do we take the time to consider the radical realignment that took place in our lives and that keeps on working in and through us each and every day? Chances are we don’t think much at all about our baptismal identity and what effect is does (or should) have on our daily life. For Jesus, at least according to Mark’s gospel, it immediately set in motion a chain of events and a controversial ministry that led down straight to death on the cross. For many of us it led to dinner, some gifts, and a Kodak moment or two for the family album.
Holy Baptism in Evangelical Lutheran Worship concludes as the assembly greets the newly baptized, saying: “We welcome you into the body of Christ and into the mission we share: join us in giving thanks and praise to God and bearing God’s creative and redeeming word to all the world” (p. 231).
It is a considerably more daunting call than one receives when joining the Country Club or Kiwanis, and yet it often seems to be taken so lightly. Our culture worries more about high school and pro football team ranking in terms of collective identity than about our calling as children of the Most High God. An integral part of Christian stewardship if found in cultivating and living into our baptismal identity so that we may bear the good news to all the earth.
So this Sunday, as you dip your fingers into the font and mark yourself with the cross of Christ, determine that in 2009 you will be a better steward of the baptismal identity that is yours. While you’re at it, get yourself good and wet so you’ll be ready to follow in Jesus’ footsteps–out the door and into the world.
Copyright (c) 2009, The Rev. Sharron Lucas, all rights reserved. Used by permission.