“Go forth and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit….and remember I am with you always.” – Matthew 28:19-20
Baptism is…..welcoming into the community of faith & the Body of Christ.
Baptism is…..belonging to God as “Christ’s own forever.”
Baptism is….washing of our sins and renewing our life in faith.
Baptism is…..a holy sacrament, an outward sign of God’s inward grace.
Baptism is…..a gift of God’s grace through the Holy Spirit.
The Setting for Sunday
We have just celebrated the birth of Christ and will experience his death and resurrection on Easter. However, one key event we should put in the same category is Jesus’ baptism. We have various weeks set aside for baptisms – first Sunday after Epiphany (Baptism of Jesus), Easter, Pentecost,Feast of the Transfiguration (Sunday nearest Aug. 6), All Saints Sunday, whenever the Bishop visits) . Whether we have a baptism or now, we usually include the section in the prayer book for the renewal of the Baptismal Covenant in the service. In the past we have also "sprinkled" people.
Baptism in the Episcopal Church
From the Episcopal Library "This is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body, the church. God establishes an indissoluble bond with each person in baptism. God adopts us, making us members of the church and inheritors of the Kingdom of God (BCP, pp. 298, 858). In baptism we are made sharers in the new life of the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness of sins. Baptism is the foundation for all future church participation and ministry."
From the Diocese of New York
We owe much to the Apostle Paul who, through his writings, left a record of how the early Christian community understood Baptism.
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by Baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4).
Baptism was, for the early Christian community, a sacramental action to convey that one was experiencing spiritual conversion and renewal–the end of one life and the beginning of another in Christ. By using the metaphorical language and imagery of death, burial, and resurrection, the early community ceremonially expressed, that in Baptism, we die to our destructive and distorted ways of being, relating, and acting, and that by the goodness and faithfulness of God, we are raised from death to a new life, guided by and filled with the Spirit of God. It was an outward and visible sign of the spiritual transformation God was doing in one’s life. It was a symbolic action performed to depict what was happening within the life of one on a spiritual journey towards communion with God, the people of God, and all God’s creation.
Although the metaphor of being raised from death to new life is the dominant image of Christian Baptism in the New Testament, no single image or metaphor can exhaust the rich meaning of one’s conversion and experience of spiritual renewal. Consequently, there developed other images and metaphors in Scripture that express how the early Chrisitan community spoke of their conversion of life and experience of renewal in the Holy Spirit. Among them are:
Spiritual Rebirth (John 3:3-10)
Spiritual Awakening (Romans 8:37-39)
Initiation into the Body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:12-13)
Transformation of the whole person (Romans 12:1-2)
Made a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17)
To turn from darkness to light (Ephesians 5:8, Colossians 1:11-14)
To be saved (Titus 3:3-7)
One 0f the questions in baptism is whether infants or children should be baptized automatically or there is a specific age ?
Living the Baptismal Covenant
This is a mini catechism used at baptisms and on Easter and other special occasions, the Baptismal Covenant opens with a question-and-answer version of the statement of faith that is the Apostles’ Creed and adds questions regarding how we, as Christians, are called to live out our faith.
Our Baptismal Covenant as Lived in our Context (from the Diocese of San Diego)
1. Worship and Formation
"Will you continue in the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers? "
"I will, with God’s help. "
We are daring and fearless followers of Jesus, empowered by dynamic and transformative worship and spiritual formation practices and programs.
2. Repentance and Reconciliation
"Will you resist evil, and whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord? "
"I will, with God’s help. "
We value repentance and reconciliation, acknowledging when we have turned away from God and one another, seeking wholeness and healing by turning back to God and one another. In this we seek to be a welcome and open community for all. If you have turned away from God, if you have tried to follow Jesus and have failed, or are trying for the first time, you are welcome here.
David Lose – Baptism as Acceptance
David Lose is the president of Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. Here he explores the importance of baptism in our social media influenced world:
"Baptism of Christ" – Joachim Patinir (c1515-1526)
I want to start with a question: how often do you think about your baptism? …
I’m asking you to think about all this, of course, because this Sunday, the first Sunday after the Epiphany, is the day on which we remember Jesus’ own baptism. And both the text from Mark and the day itself offer an opportunity to think more deeply, and claim more fully, the promises God made to us at our own baptism.
More importantly, however, I’m asking you to think about all this because I believe there is perhaps no more important event in our lives than our baptism. Let me explain.
The Secret of our Baptism
Dr. Heather Murray Elkins poignantly shares about the mystery and meaning of Christian baptism in this Youtube video. Part of the "Living the Questions" series. An amazing experience! She is Professor of Worship, Preaching, and the Arts at Drew Theological School and an ordained elder in the Methodist church.
The ‘Whys’ of Baptism – 3 questions
"The Baptism of Christ" – Daniel Bonnell
From Lawrence in "Disclosing New Worlds"
1. Why did Jesus get baptized in the wilderness and not the temple?
Mark uses geography as a narrative device to set up the opposition between Jesus (and what God is doing in Jesus) and the Temple (and what the religious authorities expect God to be doing). The wilderness has immediate echoes of the Exodus story. It is a hostile place. It is a place of suffering and death. It is the place where wild animals live and which hostile spirits were believed to inhabit. Yet it is also the place to meet God – in burning bushes and on a mountain. It is the place where Israel came to know Yahweh and received the Law. It is the place of refuge for Elijah when his life is in danger. It is the place where the persecuted faithful gather to await deliverance (like the Qumran community). It is the place where Yahweh’s voice is to be heard – the place of prophets.
It has political significance, too. It is the place to which political refugees fled for safety, and also the place, in Jesus’ time, where would-be revolutionaries gathered to train and plot treason – a gathering place for freedom fighters, terrorists and wanna-be messiahs. In Roman terms, it was a place of resistance and opposition – just as it had been in Ahab’s day, when Elijah and the other prophets gathered there because of their opposition to Ahab’s regime.
In other words, locating Jesus in the wilderness emphasizes what Mark has said in his opening verse: the message and ministry of Jesus is a resistance movement. Jesus is God’s one-person invasion force, because he exemplifies and personifies the Kingdom of God. It is this Kingdom that will stand forever, not Rome’s. He alone is the true Son of God, worthy of worship – not Caesar (remember: Mark has a Roman centurion declare that Jesus is the Son of God at the crucifixion). And, over against the Jewish religious authorities, the Kingdom of God that Jesus brings is not the kingdom they expect. It is not for Israel alone, but for the whole world. It is not a ‘holiness movement’, but a movement of grace that embraces the unholy. It is not for the rich and powerful but for the poor and marginalised. It is not a reinforcement or re-establishment of the Temple tradition: Jesus will pronounce judgment on the Temple and prophesy its destruction (Mark 13), but a return to the God of the Exodus and the God of the prophets – a return to the wilderness.
2. Why was Jesus baptized at all ?
In stripped back prose, Mark announces that Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just like everyone else who was there that day. The question is, why was Jesus baptized? It is clear that the baptism inaugurates his mission. It is equally clear that Jesus has no need of repentance (in the sense of being a sinner) – a fact that Matthew feels compelled to clarify when faced with Mark’s narrative (see Matthew 3: 13-15).
Recognizing the Sacred in an Beyond the Stories We Tell of the Baptism of Jesus – Pastor Dawn
Baptism is a beautiful welcoming moment in which the full potential of LOVE is glimpsed. All that hope all that potential, I can’t help but well up with joy at the very possibility that all the challenges that Jesus lived his life to teach us about, all the challenges to the way we are, come to us in the waters of baptism. In the waters of baptism we see beyond the drops of water to the very stuff that nourishes, grounds and sustains us in this life, and we also see the possibilities of what life might become if we love one another. When the waters of baptism touch the head of a child, they are anointed with possibility, the possibility of love, the possibility of peace, the possibility of joy, and yes the possibility of pain. And all that possibility comes to them in the context of a community that is both renewed by such beautiful potential and refreshed by the challenges of living into that baptism. For the Body into which we are born in the waters of baptism is the is the body of Christ, an incomplete body of imperfect people who are doing their best to follow a path toward a world in which everyone is loved; everyone has enough, and everyone can live in peace.
Just as the gospel-story-tellers crafted stories about Jesus baptism which enabled their people to recognize the sacred in Jesus, we too must craft our stories about baptism in ways that enable us to recognize the sacred in one another and I do mean the other. It is easy to see the sacred in a baby or in a loved one, but how do we see the sacred in the other? How do we see the sacred in the enemy, or on this day of all days, how do we recognize the sacred in the terrorist? How must the way we tell our stories change so that everyone can recognize the sacred? What epiphanies await us? What do we need to do to facilitate epiphanies?
So where was Jesus baptized ?
When we think of sites associated with the life of Jesus, we think of Bethlehem and Jerusalem. A third site, the site of Jesus baptism, has only assumed importance in the last two decades.
A former military area covered with mines is the site of the baptism of Jesus – "Bethany beyond the Jordan" and was not discovered until 1897 when a scholar Jerusalem traveled to Madaba and accidentally uncovered mosaic map that had been covered by plaster. The area had been known as Bethabara since the 4th century, actually by mistake since that site was at the crossing of the Jordan by Joshua. A 6th Century monastery was present at the site of the baptism (Saphsaphas) across the river and was documented by visitors since that time. It was the site of John the Baptist’s cave. Ancient Pilgrim accounts helped lead explorers to area in 1899. It is east of the Jordan River actually in Jordan today.
Two world wars and internal conflicts in 1948, 1967 and 1973 prevented the uncovering and full exploration of the site. Today, it is preserved as holy site by the Jordanian government.
Alexander Shaia on Baptism
This Sunday’s text is regularly called “Jesus’ Baptism”. Grrrrr. By using this name we show disrespect for our Jewish mother and we lessen the power and understanding of Christian baptism.
Yes, we have the story of Jesus going down into the Jordan River this Sunday – because it is one of the three traditional accounts of The Feast of The Epiphany (radiance becoming manifest).
But for gosh sake – this is not a text of Christian baptism. Jesus is submitting to the Jewish rite of a mikvah bath. Yes in the first century, Judaism was using Greek terms to describe its own rituals. In the Greek of that century – a mikvah bath was called baptism. Two hundred years later, Judaism reverted back to its original name – mikvah bath – because baptism had come to be a name generally associated with the Christian ritual.
Words and names matter. Please help people understand that there is Jewish “baptism” that is now called a mikvah bath and there is Christian “baptism.” Each is quite distinct from the other.
However, there are two elements from this Mikvah Bath in the Jordan that Christianity brought into its own ritual of baptism.
Remember that the Jordan River – for the Jews of this time – is considered to be the place of the demonic – the place of one’s deep anxieties. Going down into the Jordan, was a visceral aspect of living through one’s most raw wounds for the sake of renewed life.
For this reason, Christianity chose running water (which is treacherous, potentially demonic water) to be the primary element of Christian baptism. The water here was not about cleansing, but rather this flowing water held a death-like experience.
Secondly, in the midst of a death-like experience – may each Christian entering such water – hear also Spirit’s voice that says, “You are my Beloved, in whom I am well pleased.”
In hearing this account of Jesus going into the flowing water of the Jordan to receive a Jewish mikvah bath – let us remember that Radiance Increases within us in equal measure to our willingness to live through our deepest anxieties – knowing that each of us is already ‘beloved’ and in which Spirit is well pleased.
PLEASE please let us respect our Jewish sisters and brothers by using the proper name for their ritual – a Mikvah Bath – and not using this Sunday to perform Christian baptism. This text is not a text of Christian baptism. Jesus is not receiving Christian baptism. The fullness and meaning of Christian baptism is an Easter story, not The Epiphany story.
Baptism in the movies
There are many films that use baptism and others that relate baptism themes:
1. Godfather (1972) Michael Rizzi’s baptism service is interspersed with the assassination of the heads of the five families. Michael Corleone stands as the child’s literal Godfather while simultaneously becoming the "Godfather" in the Cosa Nostra sense. An amazing sequence of images.
2. Paper Chase (1973) The whole movie shows the "baptism under fire" potential law students go through to become one of the "community." As with early Christians who had a lot of work to do before being accepted, these students struggle with the new way of life and expectations at law school. The end of the movie suggests that some people find that going through such a baptism is a learning experience, but they don’t want to join the community because they see problems with it-or other things in life more valuable.
3. Forrest Gump (1987) In the opening sequence, the first thing we see is a feather dislodging from a dove flying overhead. The feather wafts along, almost alighting on several "acceptable" people, finally settling on Forrest, sitting on the bench, waiting for the bus. Mark 1:10, from this week’s Gospel: "…he saw…the Spirit descending like a dove on him."