John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 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. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 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. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”Mark 1:4-11 (NRSV)
The Baptism of Jesus
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 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. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Hey, thanks for taking the time to watch this week’s Oldtown Short. Can I share something with you? Sometimes I get overwhelmed with things that that are happening in my life, or with things happening in the world around me, and I need to turn off the tv, silence my phone and my social media and head to the beach for a walk.
There’s something about being near the water, whether it’s the ocean or a lake, a pond or a river, that brings a sense of calm in an uncertain world. Now that’s not to say that water is always peaceful and still. Sometimes the ocean can be like glass–calm and serene–and other times the waves crash wildly onto the shore as sea gulls screech and hurricane winds blow. And rivers? They can be gentle and winding as their water bubbles over the rocks, or they can be thunderously gushing, breeching their bounds and flooding into nearby low-lying areas.
Just like human life, the waters experience times of stillness and turbulence and all kinds of moments in between. But what is it about water that draw us in? What is it about water that has the ability to change us?
In the Bible, there are lots of stories that take place in and around the water. But there is one story in particular that gives us a little insight into our connection to water. And no, it’s not the story of Jesus turning water into wine! It’s the story Jesus appearing at the Jordan River to be baptized by John.
Now I know that baptism brings up all kinds of questions for all kinds of people. Do you sprinkle or dunk? How old should you be? Are there godparents or sponsors who can do the baptizing? And how do you properly prepare for baptism? Folks, those are all questions to ponder, but that is not our focus today.
You see, not many people knew who Jesus was at this point in the story, and sometimes I wonder if Jesus truly understood who he was at this point in the story himself, but John did. And because John knew who Jesus was, he didn’t feel as though he was worthy to baptize Jesus, but Jesus insisted. So even at Jesus’ baptism, there was doubt and judgment and feelings of unworthiness.
As the story goes, when Jesus came out of the water, he heard the voice of God say, “You are my beloved. in you I am well pleased.” It was then that his eyes were opened and he began to understand who and whose he was. It is the water of baptism that reminds us who and whose we are. It is the water that washes off the doubt and the judgement, and helps us to begin again fresh and clean and new.
Folks, no matter what happens in our personal lives or in our communities, in our nation or in our world, we always have the chance to begin again, to start fresh, and to make things new so that we can be the people that God made us to be. And it’s water that reminds of that.
Friends, the truth is, sometimes our hearts are broken by sadness and fear and grief. Sometimes we make poor choices that we later regret. Sometimes we are disappointed by the decisions and actions of others. And sometimes we find ourselves frustrated, lost, and alone. Sure, we can chose to stay that way, or we can choose to wash away our hurt and our sadness, our frustration and our anger, like we wash our hands or like we take a shower–remembering the water and how it washes over us, allowing us to start again. The truth is, it is only once we allow the water to wash over us, starting again, fresh and clean, that we can truly begin to remember who and whose we are.
So this week, as you wash your hands or take a shower, take an extra minute allowing the water to wash over you, washing away the hurt and the anger and the sadness and the frustration, and opening your heart to new ideas and possibilities. But also be sure to listen, for God’s still-speaking voice as it speaks to you saying, “You are my beloved; in you I am well pleased!”