The Baptism


Sundayy Reflection


10th January 2021


'The more water the better'

10 Just as Jesus was coming up
   out of the water,
   he saw heaven being torn open
   and the Spirit descending
   on him like a dove.
11 And a voice came from heaven:
  "You are my Son,
   whom I love;
   with you I am well pleased."

.... Mark 1:10-11

Generally, people like water;
we swim in it,
we build our homes near it,
and if we can't,
then we take holidays near it.

The more water the better;
a resort with a pool is nice,
a lake better,
the beach even better
and to top it all off,
how about an island
completely surrounded
by water, or a cruise ship.

Some of us are even
daft enough to live on it!
There's nothing like
dropping off
to sleep to the sound
of the water lapping against
the side of the boat
and waking on a summer's
morning, at 5am, to the ducks
doing their morning exercises
on the roof or tapping
on the sides of the boat
for their breakfast.

So, it should come as no
surprise that every major
religion has a ritual
involving water;
generally a ritual
cleansing with water.

In Islam and Judaism
to this day,
ritual purification by water
plays an important role.
The mikvah, or ritual bath,
was and is an important
part of Jewish life,
it is used before
going to pray.

And it was upon this tradition
that John the Baptist
built his practice of immersion
for the repentance of sins.

It is that baptism
for the repentance of sins
that we encounter in our text.
Jesus comes to the Jordan
to be baptised by John,
and begins his earthly ministry.

For that reason,
today is "Baptism of Christ" Sunday.

A commemoration of Jesus'
beginnings by the waters
of the Jordan.
It is the only recorded incident
in the Bible (except Gen. 1 !)
where we have the Father,
Son and Holy Spirit together.

Many Christians have a somewhat
vague understanding of baptism.
Perhaps we do not talk about
baptism enough in our churches
to explain what it's really about.

The daughter of a friend
was talking about getting
her baby son 'done' (baptised),
no they weren't Christians,
she said but thought her son
needed some 'stamp of approval',

They were disappointed when
the rector started to schedule them
for a Sunday morning.

Couldn't they just do it privately
on their own some time?

After all it was to be a
family celebration!

Many view baptism the way
my friend's daughter did -
as a good luck charm -
a get out of jail free card.

In fact, we are told that
from a theological perspective,
baptism is not necessary for salvation.

That catches a lot of people
by surprise.
But it's true, we don't need
to baptise sick infants
in case they die.

Being baptised is not something
that we need to do in order
to be saved.
That can only be achieved by
recognising and accepting
Jesus as our Lord and Saviour.

Rather, baptism is a sign
that God makes upon us because
we are already saved.

Baptism is about something
God works within us,
a sign of our relationship
with Him.

A relationship which comes
before the baptism,
not one that is created by it.
Baptism isn't so much a
cleansing of oneself,
as it is a sign of
cleansing by God.

When John the Baptist
is preaching repentance
in the wilderness,
he is not offering baptisms
in order to cleanse,
but as a sign of one's
inward transformation.

The Greek word for 'repent'
is metanoia,
which literally means
"to change the mind."

You've been thinking one way,
but now you think the opposite way.

'Repent and be baptised.'
John said.
The person has to make the first move.

But there's something else
important about John's teaching;
he points people to the one
coming after him
who will offer a baptism
of a different kind.

He says,
'He will baptise you
with the Holy Spirit
and with fire' Mark 1:8
These are powerful images!

When you look back
over your life,
are there times when you can
recognise a powerful God at work,
in yourself or in others?

Today gives us the chance
to remember, and reflect on,
our Spiritual baptisms;
to revitalise our lives
and that of the community -
a community into which Christ
himself was baptised;
to remember once more
what it means to be the people
of a God who is as close to us
as our next breath.

The Good news of the Gospel
isn't that Jesus just wants
to come into our lives -
it's that he invites us into his.

'Be strong, be brave...'
Take heart for Jesus did not come
to make bad people good;
he came to make dead people live.

Let's be a beacon of hope
in these dark days.

It may be interesting to watch,
or just listen to a song
'The river'
sung by Brian Doerksonr
via the link shown below.