January 13 2019
Baptism of Jesus
The Rev. Canon Donna Joy
Sacrament of Baptism: Ocean Faith Ball
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
Today, as with every year at this time, we are celebrating the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus. Each of the three Gospels includes the story of Jesus’ baptism; they basically tell the same story, but each tell the story in a slightly different way. St. Peter’s, along with all mainline traditional denominations, follows a lectionary, prescribed sets of readings used for worship throughout any given year. We are currently in the year of Luke, so this is the story of Jesus’ baptism that we have heard today: where people are wondering if John, the one who is baptizing everyone, is – himself - the long-awaited Messiah. And part of John’s response to this wondering is, “I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. (In other words: I am NOT the Messiah. He is the Messiah. And my job is always to point you toward him.) And after Jesus is baptized and was praying, the heaven opened up, the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came from heaven saying, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Today, as we reflect on this story in anticipation of the celebration of a baptism here in our midst, I’ll focus on three of the symbols that we will be using as we launch into this celebration: Water; The White Gown; The Candle.
A reasonable question to ask is, “Why was Jesus baptized at all?” Our Christian teaching tells us that Jesus was the one and only person ever who was fully human and fully divine, which means that while he was fully human he was ALSO fully without sin. The Gospels tell us that John was baptizing for repentance and forgiveness of sins, so if Jesus was without sin as we believe he was, why was baptism even necessary? Well, it turns out that Jesus, himself, indeed, did not require forgiveness; he was baptized FOR US. He was baptized, so that through OUR baptism we may be intimately connected to him. And, it turns out, one of the greatest clues, or symbols, that helps us understand this more fully is the water in which he was baptized.
Water is a powerful symbol. It is everywhere: in air and soil, in plants and animals, in rivers and oceans. Without water, there is no life. Before we are born, we live in the water of the womb. Our bodies are about 70% water, which must continually be replenished. Water cleans the earth and grows the food that we eat. It refreshes and nourishes. It can also destroy, as the world was reminded with the sinking of the titanic, or the devastating photo of a little boy swept up in the shores of a Turkish resort. Such images of water fill the Old Testament as well. In the first story of creation God’s spirit moved over the waters. Out of the water came life.
There’s one more important thing to remember as we reflect on the symbol of water in baptism: Scientifically, we know that water is all connected in one vast cycle. It is constantly on the move in an endless loop known as the water cycle. So, the water used here today, is part of that same cycle that rises from the river Jordan in which Jesus was baptized. Jesus was baptized for us. Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan, so that we may be intimately connected to him, and becoming connected to him in this way, we are reunited with the God who creates us, and the Holy Spirit that sustains us. So, as we are immersed into the waters of baptism, we are refreshed, renewed, restored in a way that brings us into the realm of God, through Jesus, in a whole new way.
The beauty and colour of a baptismal gown reflects the quality of life we are called to live as baptized Christians. We wear this gown as a reflection of the beautiful way we are called to live. With this child, Ocean, as we place this dress on her, we are committing to teach her how to live into this beautiful life of faith. In a few short minutes, we will be renewing our own baptismal covenant, and today we do this so that in whatever ways that are humanly possibly, we will teach her to live into this covenant, symbolized by the beauty of this gown. Through this covenant, we renew our commitment to: (1) worship regularly; (2) remain connected to the Christ who has been baptized for us; (3) repent when we need to repent; (4) become living examples of the love of Christ to others; (5) live generously – responding to the needs of others; (6) strive for justice and peace among all people, respecting the dignity of every human being; and (7) safeguard the integrity of God’s creation – to respect, sustain, and renew the life of the Earth. The baptismal gown symbolizes this quality of life.
After Ocean is baptized, she will receive the gift of a candle which is given along with the words, “Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” This candle represents the light of God that we hope and pray will, through the quality of her love, become a light in the world. Because we become intimately connected to God – to Jesus - through the waters of baptism, we become his agents – his disciples – at this moment, in this place, in this time. As Ocean is baptized here today, we might say that our prairie sky opens up as we hear the voice of God say, “Ocean, you are my daughter, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
This is a big day for Ocean, and in many ways it is an equally big day for each of us, because we are making an extraordinary commitment, to do whatever we possibly can to help her remain connected with Christ through her baptism by living faithfully according to the baptismal covenant we are renewing today.
May God bless and keep us as we attempt to be faithful role models in shaping her into a faithful follower of Christ, and may God bless Ocean as she lives into the covenant being made here today..