The Lord's Baptism and Our Own
First Sunday after The Epiphany: The Baptism of Our Lord
January 11, 2015
St. Alban's, Kingstree
Mark 1: 7-11
Today we focus our attention on the Baptism of Our Lord and on the ways that his baptism affect our own lives of faith. Therefore, may we pay attention today to the baptism of Jesus and to how our Christian lives are affected by that event.
The Collect for today begins this consideration and helps focus our attention. In that collect, we prayed, “Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan didst proclaim him thy beloved Son and anoint him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior” (BCP, p 163). Thus, from that prayer, we gain a perspective on both Jesus’ baptism and on how that event impacts our lives of faith. That is our prayer for this day, and it identifies the subject of our attention this morning.
Today’s reading from Isaiah offers an interesting understanding of the matter before us. On behalf of God, the prophet writes, “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him” (42:1). Identification of God’s servant is followed by both the assurance of God’s spirit and by the indication of God’s favor. Keep in mind that this reading comes from the Old Testament – prior to the time of Christ. But in it are found themes which become prominent for the Baptism of Our Lord. Again, then, “Here is my servant, who I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him” (42:1).
Next, the reading from Acts follows, and there we hear part of a sermon from St. Peter. The apostle refers to Jesus’ baptism as the beginning point of our Lord’s public ministry. That baptism marked the time of the Holy Spirit’s anointing and the point that power was given to Jesus to do the work he was called to accomplish. St. Peter proclaims that at our Lord’s baptism, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; (then) he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (10:38).
Finally, in today’s Gospel reading, we hear St. Mark’s description of our Lord’s baptism itself. “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’” (1:9-11). St. Mark, then, writes of the experience itself … the experience anticipated by Isaiah and reported in the Book of Acts … the experience of the Baptism of Our Lord.
From today’s collect and readings, then, a pattern emerges about some of the experiences and results related to our Lord’s baptism. That is, the baptism itself is connected to the anointing by the Holy Spirit. Also, the baptized one finds favor with God Almighty. Then, finally, what results is that power is conveyed, in order to accomplish the ministry which follows. Those things we learn about our Lord’s baptism, in the collect and readings this morning.
As with our Lord and his baptism, so it is with us and our baptism. Indeed, the baptism of Jesus provides the model for us who are baptized in his name. On this feast day, we need to perceive Jesus’ baptism in personal ways – as a model of our own, as the initiation of our Christian lives, and as a call to witness and to minister, for all of us who claim to be Christians.
Thus, our baptism – like that of Jesus – is accompanied by the Holy Spirit’s anointing. And, our baptism indicates God’s favor toward us as well. Indeed, after the candidate is baptized in our liturgy, the priest makes the sign of the cross on the person’s forehead and says, “You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own for ever” (BCP, p 308). Then, finally, through baptism, we are empowered to do the work we are called to do … or, as we pray for the baptismal candidate, “Send him into the world in witness to your love” (BCP, p 306).
In summary, therefore, we remember and celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord today. As we do so, we realize that this event gives meaning to our own baptism, even in our day. Thus it is that we pray on this occasion, “Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan didst proclaim him thy beloved Son and anoint him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior” (BCP, p 163). Amen.
The Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg
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