By Water and Spirit

Scripture: Luke 3: 15-18, 22-25

Let us pray:

Gracious Lord, may your Holy Spirit descend once more to us and guide our footsteps in your everlasting way. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer, Amen.

Jesus didn’t have to be baptized. So why did he do it? Each of the Synoptic Gospels puts its own spin on it as they recount the memory of this significant act.  Even John includes reference of it in his Gospel as well, making this story one of the few that appears in all four Gospels. This was a significant act. For us, we are baptized as a symbolic rebirth; from old to new creation in God’s sight, from womb of earth to adopted child of heaven.

For Jesus, Son of God, Emmanuel, child of Mary but issue of the Holy Spirit, baptism was completely unnecessary. So, why DID he do it? Robert Brearly reminds us that in Luke’s account, Jesus was baptized in a crowd, not singly as we tend to do in most Christian services. That tells us Jesus was taking the step of solidarity with the rest of us human beings right from the start of his ministry.[1]

What does that signify for us today? To understand that, maybe we should revisit the liturgies used in the sacrament of Baptism.  Almost universally in the Christian Church, questions asked during Baptism are:  “Do you turn from the ways of sin and renounce evil and its power in the world?” To which we answer, “I do.” Then we are asked, “Who is your Lord and Savior?” To which we answer, “Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.” Then some traditions ask, “Do you trust in him?” We answer, “I do.” Followed by, “Will you be Christ’s faithful disciple, obeying his word and showing his love?” To which we say, “I will, with God’s help.” Finally, we are asked, “Will you devote yourself to the church’s teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers?” To which we again reply, “I will, with God’s help.” Then in the baptismal liturgies we utter one of the confessions of faith, usually the Nicene Creed or portions of it. In doing all those things, we take upon ourselves the same journey of solidarity that Christ took-and continues to take-with us.

“It is a question worth asking, whether our churches truly identify with sinners and are willing to get in line with them, to welcome and work for them as brothers and sisters in Christ. The church may say all the right words, declaring that we are “hospitals for sinners” and [a place of refuge] for those who have lost their way, but too often we may send the message that respectable, successful folks are the ones we need to build up our communities. Time and again people who encounter difficulties in life drop out of our churches, seek help from other caregivers, and return to church only after they feel they can be re-certified as respectable, churchgoing people.  Jesus got in line with sinners and was baptized with them. That might be worth knowing and remembering” (my emphasis).[2]

Not only does Jesus walk into the waters of repentance in solidarity with all humanity, but his first act upon rising up out of the waters is to pray to God. In the midst of that prayer, God’s Spirit Dove descends and alights on him in radical splendor visible to all while the voice of God speaks to Jesus personally.

“Luke follows Mark’s wording exactly, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (3:22). This message is directed to Jesus himself, rather than to the listeners in the crowd (as in Matt. 3:17). It is about his self-understanding as God’s Son. ‘This heavenly attestation combines Ps. 2:7, used at the coronation of Israel’s king as son of God, and Isa. 42:1, a description of the servant of God,” writes Fred Craddock. “The two texts join sovereignty and service.'”[3]

It is significant that Luke’s Gospel records Jesus praying as the first act rising up out of the waters. The community for which Luke wrote his account sees the ministry of prayer as the primary act for the community of faith. In prayer, the faith community discerns what their proclamation is as a body of believers, preparing them for the service for which God calls them into fellowship together.

(Author’s note: the following has been modified from the specific community to which this was first preached to a more broad voice, offering any Christian faith community reflection questions for the new year along your journey together.)

Now think about application for your own faith community. How might you pray? What shall you pray?  How is God calling you to be witnesses to God’s reign on Earth?  Are you primarily a community fellowship of liked-minded, respectable church-goers, or have you done as Jesus did and walked in solidarity with those who may not have it all together at this moment in their lives?

I would invite you to examine and explore these questions as you move into another year of ministry and community together.

May all glory be unto the one who lived, died, and rose again for us, even him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.

[1] Brearly, Robert. Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Feasting on the Word – Year C, Volume 1: Advent through Transfiguration.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Hess, Ernest. Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Feasting on the Word – Year C, Volume 1: Advent through Transfiguration; quoting Fred Craddock Luke (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1990), p 51.

 

 

About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
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