Jan23TueBaptism of our Lord January 7 2018 January 23, 2018 Pastor Sebastian
Mark 1: The Baptism of the Son of God/ “Apologize and Repent!”
Grace and peace be unto you…
The way that Christmas Eve fell last year, on the 4th Sunday of Advent,
means that we have a very short Christmas Season.
This year we only got one full Sunday to enjoy the season of Christmas
here at church
and all the poinsettias and the wreaths are gone,
we’re so quickly back to ordinary time.
But this Sunday is not ordinary:
we remember, we celebrate the
The Baptism of our Lord.
An incredibly dramatic epiphany of Jesus as Son of God.
A manifestation: a making-apparent, of what was hidden,
an uncovering of a mystery;
this man, who looks so ordinary, an average Palestinian 30-year old is something greater than anything seen before or ever since.
The beginning of the Gospel of Mark (which we heard in our Gospel reading) is an incredibly dense and vibrant few verses outlining the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry.
There’s a real sense of urgency built into the text, and the coming of a long-deferred hope: the Messiah long awaited is finally about to burst onto the scene.
But first, the scene is set with John, Jesus’ cousin,
he looks really weird, he’s dressed in camel’s hair clothing, a leather belt, and eats really strange food, like bugs, locusts and wild honey.
He wouldn’t fit in with the city elite or with the religious establishment priests.
He’s an outsider, living in the margins, in the wilderness, far from the buildings and highways and hustle and bustle.
He’s dressed like an old-fashioned prophet from centuries past.
And his message is old-fashioned, but still current.
He looks like a modern-day Elijah, a great, powerful and respected prophet who was said to return (in some shape or form) before the Messiah would appear.
And in that Judean wilderness east of Jerusalem,
John has a message he wants everyone to hear.
He’s proclaiming that you need to be dunked underwater to show that you repent from your sinful ways and receive God’s forgiveness.
John preaches the baptism of repentance that draws in people, including Jesus.
Now some of you might say: what is that, dunked?
Well the original word for baptism, the Greek word baptizo means, literally to dunk.
So the first baptisms were all underwater dunkings, you were fully in a body of water, and you were dunked underwater, [motion]
so unfortunately our painting on the ceiling is a little historically inaccurate because no, John didn’t have a seashell in his hand and just dribble a little water over Jesus, Jesus would have gotten completely soaking, sopping wet from head to toe in this process.
Now this baptism of repentance, literally means to turn around, turn away from your sins,
turn back to God,
turn away from that which separates you from God and neighbour.
This was a powerful message that John was proclaiming.
He was calling out in the wilderness: turn back to God.
And people responded, from all walks of life, rich and poor, young and old,
city and country,
people streamed to John from around the province, and even one person,
one special person from quite far away, from Galiliee, came by too, a certain Jesus of Nazareth.
Now it is confusing,
that Jesus, the blameless, sinless Son of God would need baptism for repentance and forgiveness,
it definitely challenged the first-century Gospel writers:
why would Jesus need to be baptized for forgiveness if he was sinless?
Perhaps the best explanation is that Jesus agrees with John’s case,
and shows “commitment with John’s message”,
that is yes, a sinless Jesus doesn’t need to have his sins forgiven,
but he agrees that we should all turn back to God,
publicly acknowledge our need for God and that we are imperfect persons and that we need to get more connected with God and our neighbours.
John’s is an important and worthy cause, and we should all follow John’s call to turn back to God with our heart, mind and soul.
And because Jesus does this, (he submits to John’s baptism)
God shows his approval: God declares Jesus his own Son.
Jesus’ identity and authority are established in the Jordan river after he is baptized by John.
Jesus come to fulfill, bring to pass, what was prophesied, foretold
he brings to pass the Jewish end-time hope,
it was foretold that the Spirit would be poured out on all flesh (in these end times)
that the Holy Spirit would bring new energy, mission, vision and courage..
Jesus sees the heavens torn apart
or perhaps even more accurately
“sees the heavens in the process of being ripped apart”.
This is pure apocalyptic imagery: this divine disclosure, this godly revelation, that:
the human-divine fabric is temporarily being cut open,
the barrier between us and God is being broken.
This is a cosmic event of eternal importance!
There always is a longing, esp. when times are tough, for us to want God to bend his ear, to listen to our cry, to show himself in all his power.
And now, God in flesh is made manifest!
God is closer, than ever before.
And this vision, this manifestation, this epiphany, this becoming apparent,
The Spirit descending like a dove
in a hovering motion,
(like our reading from Genesis chapter 1):
the spirit brooding over the waters of chaos;
like the Spirit is warming, comforting, preparing Jesus for his life and ministry.
And then the divine proclamation:
Jesus is God’s anointed, Jesus is adopted, Jesus is God’s King on Earth.
Jesus is Son of God.
with two meanings: he is a royal King
but also a righteous sufferer.
He will be a King who rules, but not in traditional ways,
and he will suffer and understand human suffering,
and show solidarity with all human suffering in the process.
Now how does this story impact upon us?
First off, really easy:
John’s message applies directly to us as well.
We are sinners and we need to repent and ask for forgiveness.
We need to acknowledge that we are imperfect, that we hurt one another in thought, word and deed, and that we do things we ought not to do,
and don’t do the things we ought to do.
We don’t make God a priority in our life, we don’t help the needy as much as we should, we disrespect each other, intentionally or unintentionally,
and we are so often turned away from our neighbour and from God and only turned inward into ourselves.
We need to repent, return to the Lord,
return to our neighbour, return to our senses, turn again back to the source of life, to the source of love.
We need to ask God for forgiveness, to ask our friends and enemies for forgiveness,
we need to say sorry, and to properly say sorry, not like the “fake sorries” of the Weinsteins, Lauers and Damons,
but in three steps:
express remorse, admit responsibility and make amends
In an article for Verily Magazine, Joellen Poon writes of a simple four step formula for properly apologizing, a process that she taught to her fourth-graders, and that we could use either to say sorry to our fellow humans or to repent and confess our sins to God:
Use four sentences.
Sentence one begins: I’m sorry for… (fill in the blank)
Sentence 2 begins. This is wrong because… (da-da-da)
Sentence 3 begins: In the future I will… [gesture]
Sentence 4 is simple: Will you forgive me?
The example she gives is
1. I’m sorry for cutting you in line.
2. This is wrong because you were here first, and it was selfish of me.
3. In the future I will go to the back of the line.
4. Will you forgive me?
I think her method is good because it is a simple 4 steps that get at why so many two word “I’m sorry’s” are just not enough.
Here, step 1 shows that you understand what you’re sorry for.
You tell the other person the reason that you’re apologizing.
You’re apologizing for hurting, for being insensitive, for taking something etc.
This also allows for clarification, if in fact that is not the reason why someone is hurt…it allows for exploration of the actual event.
I’m sorry for…
Beginning the second sentence with “this is wrong because” allows you to formulate in your own words why your actions were hurtful.
They help the person (or God if this is a prayer) understand how you realize your actions are wrong and why you need to apologize. Once again, this also provides information for your partner to clarify if something was misunderstood.
This is wrong because…
And then: There really needs to be a future-oriented promise of some kind when saying sorry because otherwise it ends up sounding hollow, and you just end up appearing like you aren’t really sorry, that you haven’t learned a thing or aren’t willing to learn.
There has be that willingness to mend your ways, to try to do better next time.
In the future, I will…
Of course the promise shouldn’t be unrealistic, like saying I promise never to do it again, or I promise never to sin again or so on, because obviously we can’t promise to be perfect in the future,
but we need to make some attempt at doing things better and learning from our mistakes.
So our Gospel story reminds us: We are sinners and we need to repent, to say we’re sorry (to humans and to God) and ask for forgiveness.
but the story doesn’t end there, it ends with !!Jesus.
repentance points to Jesus.
it ends with proclaiming that Jesus is Son of God
and proclaiming that Jesus is Son of God is a central claim and hope of Christians!
Jesus is different! than you or me!
Jesus is in a way super-human.
Jesus is good, he is God’s Son and he points the way, he leads the way.
Baptism establishes the identity of Jesus
and Baptism establishes our identity.
Baptism shows us whose we are.
who we belong to.
We are who God says we are
We are God’s children!
In our Baptism, it is revealed that God is our heavenly parent and that we are God’s children,
God adopts us as God’s own,
we belong to God and we belong to Christ in whom we have been baptised.
We are baptized: we know our sins are forgiven, because the Son of God came.
Our sins are washed away, they are dunked and drowned and destroyed.
We are who God says we are
we are baptised, loved and forgiven,
we are newly created, and formed
we are freed for service and we are freed to proclaim the good news of Jesus to friend and foe alike.
Baptism is the greatest gift for us, as it was for Jesus,
Baptism shows us that God knows us and God loves us,
in Baptism we are dunked under into that “never-ending living water, that quenches the thirst and floods the soul”
and we re-emerge,
and the heavens are ripped open for us,
the human-divine fabric has been cut open,
the barrier between us and God has been broken;
God has come to us
and we can come to God
forgiven, loved and free!