Baptism of Our Lord

10th January 2021

Prayer of the Day
Loving God,
your Son came to seek the lost, and was baptised with sinners: grant that we, who have been baptised in his name,
may reach out in love to those in need with the mercy of Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you, for ever and ever. Amen.


Genesis 1:1-5
1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.


Notes, from Bruce Epperly

The first words of Genesis describe poetically the world-creating movements of divine wisdom. They are theological and spiritual – cosmological – with only a hint of science. (Those who look for exact dates and timetables for creation are missing the point of this account of the work of Divine Wisdom.) God’s light brings the heavens and earth, and invests the waters of the earth with fecundity. God creates within the womb of chaos to bring forth the order necessary for creativity and evolution. The Genesis story is not science; still, the story begs the questions, “Was there a first moment of creation? Or, has God always worked with materials, pregnant with possibility despite their formlessness?” Christians don’t need to worry about the timetables or the how’s of creation, but the divine intent – the goodness of life and our role as companions in the great creation story.


Psalm 29
1 Ascribe to the Lord, you powers of heaven: ascribe to the Lord glory and might.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the honour due to his name: O worship the Lord in the beauty of his holiness.
3 The voice of the Lord is upon the waters: the God of glory thunders, the Lord upon the great waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is mighty in operation: the voice of the Lord is a glorious voice.
5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedar-trees: the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes them skip like a calf: Lebanon and Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord divides the lightning-flash: the voice of the Lord whirls the sands of the desert, the Lord whirls the desert of Kadesh.
8 The voice of the Lord rends the terebinth trees, and strips bare the forests:
in his temple all cry 'Glory.'
9 The Lord sits enthroned above the water-flood: the Lord sits enthroned as a king for ever.
10 The Lord will give strength to his people: the Lord will give to his people the blessing of peace.


Notes, from Bruce Epperly

Psalm 29 describes God’s creative voice. Divine vibrations bring forth the universe, part and whole. God’s sovereignty is generous and creative. God’s power is characterized by beauty-making. The divine artist creates by wise and imaginative artistry, bringing forth a universe, bursting forth with diversity. God sings and speaks life into being, inviting us to discern our own particular life-melody.
Acts of the Apostles 9:1-7

1 While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the interior regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples. 2 He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” They replied, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 Then he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They answered, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him,
that is, in Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied - 7 altogether there were about twelve of them.


Notes, from Bruce Epperly

Acts 19 describes the interplay of water and spirit. Baptism creates an avenue for God’s ubiquitous Spirit to break into our lives in remarkable ways. Spirit belongs in our world, but our sin prevents us from experiencing her power and guidance. God’s Spirit, speaking in us and interceding for us in sighs too deep for words, can burst forth – despite our sin and lack of awareness – in glossolalia, or speaking in tongues, that connects us with divine wisdom and confirms our confidence in God’s providence in our lives. Today’s tongue speakers may not be speaking in strange languages, but in the “strange language” of justice-seeking, simple-living, and ecological care in a world hell-bent on destruction of vulnerable humans and the vulnerable earth. Our “strange tongue” today is to share in telling out the good news of creation and challenging ourselves and our leaders to be agents of “tikkun olam,” repairing or healing the world.


The Gospel: Mark 1:4-11
4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven,
“You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”


Notes, from Rick Morely

In the old religion, up at the Temple in Jerusalem, they had ways of dealing with sin. Explicit ways. Biblical ways. The exact treatment for sin differed by who did the sinning, what the sinning was, and whether or not the sin was intentional. But, the basics were the same: you went to the Temple and made a sacrifice. You just followed the laws as written in Leviticus, and that was that. Levitical law is written from the perspective that sin is inevitable, and it systemically affects the whole community if it’s not handled rightly. It must be recognized and atoned for, in the properly appointed ways. There were also perfectly laid out laws on ritual baths. When approaching the Temple, for festival or sacrifice, you first washed in the pool of Siloam. Then, properly cleansed you made the journey, uphill, to the Temple Mount. John the Baptist, as well meaning as he was, began his public ministry by directly circumventing the Temple. He invited people from all over to come and be cleansed from their sins, and repent.

 

Now, to us, this probably doesn’t quite get the blood boiling. We have no Temple. Our understanding of the handling of sin is usually a lot more democratic and accessible. We have general confessions in our liturgy, some among us have confessional booths, and most all of us have the sense that we can approach God at any time and say, “sorry, won’t do that again…” With John, we have this guy wearing camel and eating bugs was claiming to offer that which the Temple claimed exclusively, and biblically. And, out marched Jesus to receive that baptism. Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, at the hand of John the Baptist wasn’t just a personal encounter between the Son of God and God. It was a statement that in Jesus’ world, sin would be handled differently. A day was coming when you wouldn’t need a Temple, because Jesus was the new Temple. Because the Holy Spirit was going to soon take up residence in our bodies, and make us a Temple. Intermediaries and sacrifices were about to become so-30AD. And, the kicker—the real shock—is that when Jesus went out to the Jordan, God spoke to him. God claimed him. This is my son. And, by doing so, not only did God claim Jesus as His Son, but he also declared that a whole new ballgame was about to begin.

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