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A New Beginning, A New Creation: The Baptism of Christ

Sunday, January 10, 2021:
Genesis 1:1-5
Acts of the Apostles 19:1-7
Mark 1:4-11

I don’t know about you, but today it seems like we can really feel the limitations of the present moment. It’s hard for the internet to replicate the experience of the movement of turning and facing the font, the sound of the drizzling of water into it, standing together as we recommit ourselves to the baptismal life, or as would probably have been the case this Sunday, welcoming a child into the communion of saints through their very own baptism. And of course there’s a good chance that we would have gotten wet ourselves at some point. But the way things are, everything is more flat and two-dimensional.

But that doesn’t take away the importance of this day. No, it isn’t quite as sentimental and festive as Christmas and Epiphany, but the Baptism of Christ has something important of which to remind us, and it flows seamlessly out of our Christmas and Epiphany themes: that Jesus sees where the people are and goes to be with them.

We might spend some time today asking ourselves how the scene at the Jordan described in Mark plays out for us in the context of this week. What strikes me as an important contrast is that the people in our gospel scene realize that the first and biggest battlefield is within themselves; and so they are baptized, repenting, and confessing their sins. And all subsequent action proceeds from that starting point of humility, solidarity, and self-awareness.

God in Jesus, recognizes the death, danger, disappointments implicit in human life. Recognizes that this needs to change. And before uttering a word, before preaching, teaching, healing, and fixing, he goes to be with the people, where they are. And rather than stir up a mob, he stops and hears the words of unconditional love and acceptance that so many forget, or deny, or were denied to them; which, when lacking, result in so much of our world’s disorder: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Do we hear that, alongside him, and remember that it applies to us, as well? “You are my child, beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

How different are our actions when they spring from this reality, rather than from our interior voices and feelings of self-doubt, want, and resulting suspicion of, and competition with, ‘the other?’

So today we dwell with this story that is an extension of the Christmas and Epiphany cycle:

    – In the Incarnation we regain intimacy with God, not by our own efforts, but in God becoming one of us.
    – In the baptism of Christ we are reminded again of how God accepts and joins in our plight. And we see a new beginning, not of chaos, but of order, of friendship, again: of intimacy. As the Spirit of God appeared over the void of the earth and drifted over the waters, here we see John the Baptizer appearing in the wilderness, and the Spirit of God descending over the waters of the Jordan.
    – And as we recall our own baptism, we remember how it is in that sacrament — that visible sign of God’s invisible work in us — that we have intimacy with Jesus’s death.

But this isn’t an end, but a new beginning. A new beginning for ourselves, from the starting point of remembering who we are in God’s eyes and in God’s family. And a new beginning for our world, as we commit to being a part of God’s remaking of it in the risen life that the Church is called on to proclaim and embody: Where divisions are overcome, God is praised, and our neighbour is loved. A new creation, a new beginning, and a more fitting and hopeful way to begin a new year than what we have seen playing out so far. Amen.

© 2021 The Rev’d Matthew Kieswetter