Questions about baptism should abound this week. Why must Jesus be baptized if he is without sin? What is the larger message presented in his baptismal event? What does the baptism of Jesus mean for us as individuals—and for the collective body of Christ?
Depending upon the tradition and method, baptism has variations in significance and meaning. In its simplest form, baptism as “re-birth” into something new connotes turning away from something old. This is not in the binary sense of new/old, good/bad but rather, how is order created out of dis-order? How does God assert God’s power and presence to tame formlessness?
From Genesis 1 to Mark 1, we’ve arrived full circle. We return to the early waters over which God’s ruach (Spirit) hovers; and in one sweep, something new is created. In Genesis it is day and night. In Mark, it is the Christology of Jesus as Messiah. In Jesus’ baptism, Christ does not turn (metanoia) away from sin in repentance (teshuvah). Rather, he turns toward ministry. His baptism is the cue to order the next three years of his life—the teaching and healing that will change everything on his way to death. “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well-pleased” is a foreshadowing of the Good Friday and Easter Sunday fulfillment to come.
The image of God’s voice hovering over the Genesis creation waters and Mark’s baptismal waters resides with me and in me. On a moonlit beach walk, in my finite human brain, I see a sliver of Epiphany Light—and encounter what it may have felt like to be there to witness such majesty and mystery out of the ordinary.
God, help us to have faith in the mystery. Amen.
This week’s readings use both water and wind (Spirit) in a variety of ways. Water and wind are present in the Genesis story of God's bringing order out of chaos. Both the epistle and Gospel bring images of water in baptism and with the Spirit present. The psalmist invokes the voice of God thundering over waves and causing trees to shake. In the account of Jesus’ baptism, that same voice breaks through to proclaim that Jesus is God’s Son, the Beloved. Also, in the middle of this week, we celebrate Epiphany with Isaiah's inspiring vision of dawn breaking and the invitation to arise and shine because Light has come to us.
Read Genesis 1:1-5. Where have you seen God bringing order out of chaos in your life? What are the situations in your life or in our world that seem formless or chaotic now? Can you see God working to bring order in those situations?
Read Psalm 29. How do you respond to the powerful images of God’s action reflected in this psalm?
Read Acts 19:1-7. How would you answer Paul’s question: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became [a believer]?” How do you see the Spirit active in your life?
Read Mark 1:4-11. Can you hear God saying to you, “You are my child, the beloved; with you I am well pleased”? How does it feel to imagine God saying those words to you?
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