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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Why was Jesus baptized?


1/8






We are gathered to celebrate the Baptism of Jesus. Our special music includes Jesus the Light of the World, Take me to the Water, Jeremy and I do Bob Ferguson’s On the Wings of a Dove, Wade in the Water and Down to the River to Pray…as always, a joy to sing with Jeremy.



After scriptures, here is our refelction: 

It is Baptism of Jesus Sunday.

71.7 % of the earth is water, the oceans contain 96.5% of the earth’s water
Our bodies are  50-65% water, and bodies of infants are 75-78%
There can be life without light. Life without air. But there is no life without water. 

Water looms large in the the Bible beginning with creation, the flood, crossing the Red Sea, and Jesus baptized in the Jordan

Our creation story has roots in the Babylonian story with the ultimate defeat of the great sea monster of chaos, Tiamat. (Though our Biblical story does go a radically different direction) Although as my friend Pastor Heidi  Neumark likes to point out, and recent events have made clear, Tiamat is never far behind "chaos and confusion” were the words used to describe the scene at the Ft.Lauderdale airport where five were killed and another eight injured…It is a sign of our insanity when the question is asked “Well was this terrorism or just another typical American mass shooting”? Tiamat is never far behind..

Until we took to the air, water was our fastest way of getting from one place to another..the rivers, and later canals…my great grandfather spent some time as a drover on the C&O canal…I’ve often  fantasized taking a long river trip…and of course the oceans..

My son watched the movie Titanic the other  day….and I pondered the awesome overwhelming power of water overwhelming the human hubris that thought we had created an unsinkable ship..and of course as always, there were significant  class issues involved in the Titanic tragedy as well…

Water continues to be a serious political issue whether it’s drought in California, the failure to provide potable water to Flint or what we have done to our rivers and streams, not to mention the ocean..

All goes to say, no wonder water is one of the central symbols of the Christian faith…and today we celebrate, commemorate the  baptism of Jesus and consider our own…the official end of Christmastide

First of all what
  1. Here comes John the Baptist (again!) … Jesus’ cousin, his father aTemple official, a child of privilege, born into religious/political establishment 
  2. He has gone out into the wilderness (like the Essenes and Nazirites))
  3. He has adopted a ritual, rooted in Jewish purity rites, the mikveh,  suggesting that the  whole religious institution has become so corrupted, we all need to be converted again
  4. And so Jesus comes to be baptized

Before we get to why?  Lets reflect on relationships. Jesus and John were cousins. Imagine their conversations. Jesus was the poor country cousin so to speak. Imagine their childhood experiences. One remains an unmarried working guy in his  father’s workshop. Odd for his day. The other rejects his privilege and goes out into wild as a prophet, What had John been told about Jesus growing up? All that is the unwritten background..John’s hesitation to baptize Jesus, Jesus’ insistence on being baptized…why? if he is sinless?  And then the dove. As Leonard Cohen sang:

The birds they sang
At the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don't dwell on what
Has passed away
Or what is yet to be
Yeah the wars they will
Be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
Bought and sold
And bought again
The dove is never free

The why is what wraps up our Christmas…the key reality of Christmas is incarnation, word made flesh, God made flesh ….living in the midst of us…it is for Jesus a symbolic act of solidarity with us…he is fully human

By tradition, baptism is emotionally understood like another vaccination/innoculation .My father was always anxious over the fact that my nieces were never baptized. 
It’s also a rite of initiation, of inclusion
In our tradition we baptize children because for us salvation  is not by our will, or anything we do, or choose, it is a free gift.

We promise community responsibility for a child..We historically rejected godparents, but due to popular demand  have ultimately let them in (Although we officially call them SPONSORS)

Each of our own unique  ministries  comes not through ordination, but through baptism. It is 
no longer a ticket to the club, as our denomination declared at its last General Assembly that we offer an open table, baptism not required.   
it is a call to us to join Jesus in that solidarity.

Last night I saw Silence, Martin Scorsese’s  film of Shushaku Endo’s novel. It’s ultimate truth is that the way of Jesus, our way, is our willingness.to give up all for the sake of others..That is the solidarity we are brought into through our baptism, joining with Jesus as he joins with us. 

Following our reflection, we go to the baptismal basin created for us by Cheryl Jaffee, the mother of  Occupier Dan after our baptismal font lid disappeared during the Occupy days ..
The "Occupy" basin
It cracked when she brought it out of the kiln. She thought of redoing it, but then decided not to because in her eyes, We were repairing the cracks in the world. There is a crack in everything, that’s how  the light gets in (Cohen). 

I mix the water fro the Jordan Alistair brought to us with the other water as i pour it  into the basin and bless the water. The congregation comes forward to receive a blessing. Each individually. And then, I am profoundly moved as Marsha claims her own ministry as a ruling elder and lays hands on land blesses me. More than any sermon, she has made clear its meaning. 
Baptism Sunday







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