Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Baptism of the Lord, Year B
January 10, 2021
Lessons: Jeremiah Genesis 1:1-5; Psalm 29; Acts 19:1-7; Mark 1:4-11
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people are incorporated fully into the wild, wet family through Jesus, the Christ.
Key Scripture: I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. – Mark 1:8
Because of Jesus we all receive a wide welcome into the wild, wet family of God. Think about that for a minute. Baptism isn’t really about us; it isn’t something that we “do” to access a personal Lord and savior, a heavenly pal, or a divine ATM. Our contemporary dualistic way of thinking can lead to this notion, but baptism is an outward sign of an inward reality that says the Christ is Lord of one’s life and the family of God is one’s adoptive—or second birth—family. Baptism is about change, but we humans are not the change makers; God is.
Our gospel lesson this week is brief and to the point, a hallmark of Mark’s gospel. In just seven short verses we learn that John was baptizing for “repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4). Evidently word spread quickly because we learn that people were coming from all over the place to confess their sins and be baptized in the waters of the Jordan River. This is not, however, the end of the process. John lets folks know that the Messiah (“the one who is more powerful than I”) will baptize them with the Holy Spirit.
Then, BAM! Jesus comes up from Galilee to be baptized by John, and all heaven and earth breaks loose. The sky is ripped open and the Spirit descends (although the Greek indicates a less-delicate encounter—more like a dive bombing pigeon than a gently cooing dove). A voice rings out from the heavens declaring “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11).
Why did Jesus need to be baptized by John if he was both fully divine and fully human? We don’t get a clear answer in the biblical witness. Theologians and scholars have pondered this question and come up with some possible answers—solidarity with humankind, a public inauguration of ministry, to fulfill the divine plan, etc. Whatever the reason, Jesus comes to John for baptism and waits in line with the people to whom he came to minister and love. And it pleases God so much that the Creator of the Cosmos makes the divine delight quite clear.
For Jesus followers it is imperative that we understand that we have been acted upon in baptism rather than being the center stage actors. Those Christians who were baptized as infants are reminded that others brought them to the font to be incorporated into God’s family, that an entire congregation made promises to walk with them in faith, and that the gift of the Holy Spirit was given to them that very day. Christians who came to faith as teens or adults may decide they want to be baptized—just as Jesus decided he would be baptized—but even with their profession of faith God is still acting upon them and not the other way around. They, too, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Just what is this Holy Spirit gift? It is the gift that keeps on giving even though we can’t see or open this present. The Spirit dwells in each one of us, drawing us closer to God, uniting us in God’s family, and guiding our path as disciples. The Spirit even prays on our behalf when we lack the words; it’s that sort of intimate familial relationship.
We Christians fail to agree on many theological points around baptism, including the amount of water, the method of delivery, the appropriate age, and what the sacrament itself actually means. Where we might find agreement is that in Jesus’ own baptism his ministry is inaugurated through this revelation or epiphany, and in doing so the church comes into being through water and word—one big wild, wet, welcoming family. We all can make an effort to remember our own gift of baptism every day and to give thanks for the life-giving gift of water that God proclaimed good.
This may be a strange celebration of the Baptism of the Lord if you are still holding worship via social media or Zoom, or even socially distanced parking lot church. A few things you might consider include:
- Invite worshipers to set a small bowl of water and candle on a table before they participate in Zoom or Facebook worship. Share a Remembrance of Baptism and invite them to dip their fingers in the water and trace the sign of the cross on their foreheads to recall their own baptism and to give thank for Jesus’ example and willingness to humble himself.
- Invite worshipers to assemble any photos they might have from their baptism and share them on your congregation’s Facebook page/group or Instagram feed.
- Record a portion of your worship (or your weekly worship promo if you do one) near a body of water—lake, stream, river, bay, or ocean.
- Share images of water from around the world interspersed with images of baptisms that have taken place in your faith community. You might share these during a hymn or as a prelude to worship.
If you are meeting with your youth either in person (with masks and proper social distancing) or via a platform like Zoom, invite them to ask their parents, grandparents, baptismal sponsors, and older siblings what they remember about their baptism day. After sharing, invite them to consider what it means to “walk wet” in the world as people who share a common baptism and a family of faith (i.e. the church). If your denomination has a catechism that explains baptism or a common practice, spend some time talking about the why, how, and what of baptism and why it matters. Be particularly sensitive to any youth who may not yet have been baptized. Remind them that God loves them, knows them, and invites them to baptism whenever it is right.
This week’s focus verse is Mark 1:11: – And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.
Doesn’t it feel good when your parents are pleased with your behavior? We all like to receive such affirmation. We learn today that God was pleased with Jesus, the beloved Son. God was so pleased, in fact, that the skies were ripped open, a dove came down from heaven above Jesus’ head, and God’s voice was heard.
Do you remember from your own baptism, or have family members shown you photos and told you about it? (Let the children share their memories.) I remember mine well (at age 11), and there were no splitting skies, dive-bombing doves, or voices from heaven. My parents were pleased, and the congregation agreed to support me as I grew in the faith. The gift of the Holy Spirit was given although there was no package with a big red bow. I trust that God was also pleased and welcomed me into the family that day.
I didn’t feel particularly different, just a little damp. What has happened is that over the years as I have remembered my baptism and grown in faith, it means more and more to me knowing that with water and word, God said yes to me and gave me a wild, wet welcome into Jesus’ own family, the church.
Finish with a simple echo prayer and blessing.
Dear God (Dear God),
Thank you (Thank you) for loving us (for loving us). Thank you for the gift of baptism (Thank you for the gift of baptism). Help us to walk wet in this world (Help us to walk wet in this world), and share the good news of Jesus (and to share the good news of Jesus).
Keep us from fear (Keep us from fear). Keep us hopeful (Keep us hopeful). Make us helpful (Make us helpful). Give us peace (Give us peace). Amen (Amen).
Stewardship Bulletin Insert
The example Jesus set by submitting himself to John’s baptism is a good example for those of us who wish to be good stewards. His action reminds us that part of being faithful stewards is humility—submitting ourselves to Christ’s leading and the Spirit’s guidance.
Invite everyone in your home to share their memories, photos, certificates, baptismal garments, towels, candles, etc. from their baptism. Make it a point to celebrate baptismal anniversaries with as much fanfare as birthdays. Make a list of the baptism anniversaries of family and friends in your faith community and send a note, text, or email to remember this important date.
If your denomination has standard wording for the Sacrament of Baptism, take some time to review it and the promises you made or that others made on your behalf. For ELCA Lutherans, you may find this in Evangelical Lutheran Worship (pp. 227ff). Visit the ELCA website here for more about “Living our Baptismal Covenant.”
2018 Reflection: https://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2018/01/wild-goose-on-the-loose/
2015 Reflection: https://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2015/01/wet-well-pleased/
Note: Reprint rights granted to congregations and other church organizations for local, nonprofit use. Just include this note: “Copyright (c) 2020, Rev. Sharron Blezard. Used by Permission.” Other uses, please inquire: firstname.lastname@example.org.