The Baptism of Jesus 2020 

Based on Mark 1: 4-11 with Gen 1: 1-5 Ps 29 Acts 19: 1-7

I will just touch briefly on our scriptures for today, so as to not have our service last overly long.  I appreciate how they build upon each other, complementing each other, describing the works of the Holy Spirit as  God’s energizing creative force, a gift of God’s grace. 

So, we begin at the very beginning:  Genesis 1: 1. God created.  From the formless earth where only emptiness and darkness covered the deep waters, from this chaos, “A wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” (NRSV v 2). 

The New Living Translation says it this way: “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.’ The Hebrew word ‘ruach’ can be translated to wind, breath or spirit. The Spirit of God is present at the beginnings of creation, sweeping like the wind, hovering across the dark and chaotic waters of the formless Earth, breathing life and change. 

“Then God said ‘Let there be light’ and there was light.” (vs 3) God sees that it is good.   Yes, it is very good — that which creates light from darkness really is good.  And it is God who does that!  God brings light to the deep, to the chaotic waters and formless void, from light comes life.  And when all is said and done, when creation was completed, God saw that is was very good indeed.

Our Psalm for today is a song of praise for the glory, the splendor, the strength and might of this Creator God, whose incredible voice can be heard all across the land and in a myriad of ways and places.  This is the Lord, the psalmist tells us, who is ultimate power over everything, to make or to break God’s own creation, always and forever, the supreme King.  Yet — this is also a God who gives strength to God’s people and blessings of peace.   Yes, we are blessed to have such a God!

And Mark’s gospel begins with the beginning of Jesus ministry.   Mark 1, verse 1:  “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” 

For Mark, it was John the baptizer’s role to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah.  Now, John had disciples of his own, he had followers, something like a revival movement, to bring people back to God.  John was telling them to repent of their sins—to turn away from a life lived contrary to God’s ways and re-dedicate their lives to living according to God’s laws.  And this dedication, this cleansing away of the old life and beginning of a new was symbolized in the process of baptism, being dunked in the Jordan River, washing away the old and starting life anew, fresh and clean.  This baptism was a ritual of re-covenanting, promising yourself and God that you wanted to start again.  A spiritual and religious do-over you could say!

This is just what Paul is referring to in our reading from the Book of Acts.  Paul has found some disciples in Ephesus and asks them if they received the Holy Spirit when they became believers.  No, they had received John’s baptism of repentance. Paul tells them about Jesus, lays hands on them and the Holy Spirit came upon them.  

Just like when Jesus came to John to be baptized into this renewal movement[1] that John had begun.  As Jesus came out of the water, the Spirit tore apart the heavens, sweeping down and descending on Jesus.   The Spirit of God, which swept over the darkness of the first creation, now splits apart the skies of God’s creation, to descend upon Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, the one who came to bring new light to the world.   This Messiah would have the power to baptize, to bring new life by the power of the Holy Spirit, the creating Spirit of God, the spirit that creates new life in Christ.  

And for those with ears to hear heard God say that this man Jesus was God’s beloved Son. And this too is very good. 

Baptism is a means by which the grace of God, the Spirit of God comes to us.  Our BAS puts it this way:  “Baptism is the sign of new life in Christ.  Baptism unites Christ with his people.” [2] Baptism is our initiation into the promises of a life in Christ.  “ … to be a Christian is to be part of a new creation which rises from the dark water of Christ’s death into the dawn of his risen life.”[3] There is great symbolism in the use of the water; it is with water that we are made clean, a cleansing from sin, the symbolism of a rebirth, of being born again in Christ.  We are baptized into Christ’s death, only to be born into new life in Christ.  “Baptism is the sacramental beginning of the Christian life in the Christian community for both children and adults.”[4]  

With each baptism, we ask God’s blessing on the water we use, the water being symbolic of the waters of creation and the waters of the Jordan at Christ’s baptism.   And each January when we read the story of Jesus’ baptism it reminds us that we can begin again, that we can repent and we are forgiven; and provides us the opportunity to renew our baptismal vows and recommit ourselves to a life following in the footsteps of Jesus, reminding us that in Christ, all is made new.  The wonderful creative, forgiving, life giving, resurrecting power of God in Christ makes all things new!  And in the power of God’s Holy Spirit, we are renewed and strengthened to go forward in the life of Christ.  Amen

The Rev’d JoAnn Todd, Rector

The Regional Ministry of Hope

[1] The New Oxford Annotated Bible, footnote to Mark 1: 9-11

[2] BAS p. 146.

[3] BAS p. 146

[4] Baycroft, John. The Anglican Way  (ABC Publishing:Toronto ON, 1980) 22