Mark Chapter 1 vs 4-11
Firstly, I have a confession to make, when Keith sent out the Lectionary readings for January, I read through each one of them and I chose Mark Chapter 1, the Baptism of Jesus. At the time I chose it for a particular reason. There was something about the passage that jumped out at me, but towards the end of December when I settled down to write my reflection I couldn’t remember why I had chosen it. I sat looking at a blank sheet of paper wondering what was it about the passage that had jumped out at me, and I still can’t remember! But I hope that what I have written will have some meaning for each one of us this morning.
John gives us his own account of how he felt about baptising Jesus that day in the river Jordan, when he looked up and saw Jesus standing before him, John thought that Jesus was going to baptise him. John just didn’t feel worthy enough to undertake this honour, yet from his birth this is what he had been chosen to do, as John has said throughout all of the Gospels “there is one coming whom I am not worthy to tie his shoelaces”, and “Who will baptise you with the Holy Spirit, I can only baptise you with water”.
John had spent his whole ministry looking forward to the coming of the Messiah, preparing the way, as we heard during our Advent Services, and in the words of that lovely piece of music from the musical God Spell ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord’. Did God whisper in John’s ear that day to remind him that this is what he was born to do, what a lovely thought, I like to think he did, because God is always there to help us, to give us a gentle nudge, especially at times of uncertainty!
I am sure that each one of us here on our phones this morning will have been baptised as an infant or maybe even as an adult. Some of you may have even been baptised with water taken from the River Jordan. And I am also certain that you all had God Parents, I had one of each, and my Godmother only passed away last year. In the Christian faith Godparents make a profession of faith for the one being baptised and assume an obligation to foster the religious training of the child.
Having re read the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel and his account of Jesus’ baptism by John, I think it is clear that Jesus also had a Godparent, a God Father who actually spoke to him from heaven after he came up out of the Jordan following his baptism, saying in my Good News Translation of the bible, “My own dear son, I am pleased with you,” such wonderful words for a parent to say to their child.
John had been proclaiming throughout his ministry that people needed to be baptised to be cleansed from their sins, but I question whether Jesus had sins that he needed to be cleansed from? I don’t think so, I think, and I may be wrong, that it was a symbolic cleansing. He was fulfilling yet another prophecy, and during his ministry, Jesus makes it clear that baptism leads to a new way of life and forgiveness, for in baptism we die and are born to new life.
This great promise has sustained Christians throughout the centuries, and as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Protestant Pastor, who was also involved in a plot to overthrow Adolf Hitler, said to one of his guards when he was being taken out to be executed in 1945, “For some this is the end, but for me it is a beginning.” What faith Bonhoeffer had, would I be that strong, I doubt it, would you?
There is also a hymn that I can’ ever remember singing, which states “You can’t kill me, I’ve already died……….,” and goes on to say, “we die in baptism but we rise to new life in Christ,” powerful words indeed.
Baptism is more than an individual act, in baptism we become part of a peoples, in Corinthians Paul writes we are all baptised into one body – the body of Christ!
In our own church at Sale when we have had infant baptisms the Minister takes the infant around the church to be shown to members of our congregation, and woe betides that minister if he or she forgets to go down Stella’s aisle! We are welcoming the infant in to the Body of Christ.
There have been discussions throughout the years regarding Infant Baptism versus believers’ baptism. However both sides agree that baptism is done in faith, whether that faith is from the parents of the infant they bring to be baptised, as my parents did, or a believer who chooses for themselves to be baptised. Faith is what binds us all together, we are being baptised into something – a family of faith.
Growing up I always thought that my parents had had me baptised to protect me and to keep me safe in God’s care until I was old enough to make my own decisions and choices. But I didn’t need to decide or to change anything for I had grown up in and been brought up in a family of faith for which I will be eternally grateful!
Let us pray
There are times when you seem very distant; when for all our prayers, it seems to us that even you have abandoned us.
There is so much in life we cannot make sense of, especially in these uncertain times, and we can feel bewildered by the uncertainty and mystery of it all.
Is there a purpose for what is going on in your world today we may ask?
Yet whether we see it or whether we don’t, you are always there at work –
bringing good out of evil, joy out of sorrow, hope out of despair, and light out of darkness.
Give us Lord we pray the strength and faith of your own Son who you sent to walk among us, John the Baptist who prepared the way for him, and the courage of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who faced his execution with such strong faith. Strengthen us to put our trust in you, knowing that through our own baptism we are all part of your Family of Faith and though all else may fail us, you never will.