Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mark 1:9-15 It started in the water. Lent 1B

Jesus baptism story is a story of intensity and drama; and if you're hungry for connection with God this story is for you.

Jesus came to the water for baptism along with all the sinners. He came to earth because we sinners need God; but he came to the water for something big to happen. When he was baptized by John heaven was torn apart and God extended his presence into our world and time.

We need God to break out of heaven and reach into our lives. Our selfishness and greed proves just how broken we are. There's only one in the whole universe who can ever put all the pieces of our broken lives together. Baptism is God's breaking in moment. This is know quiet moment. The cosmos is being shredded so that God can claim his adopted son or daughter in the water and blood of baptism.

We need God to break it. We need the one who made us and who offered a son's blood and life to make us whole. We need baptism just like every one who came to find John at the Jordan River needed baptism. We need to confess our sins and be washed in the water; washed in the blood of the lamb. We need to be made whole. Baptism is not a naming ceremony. Baptism is bigger. Baptism is a deep and primal connection with God who withholds nothing to save us. Baptism is bathing in the blood of Christ's death in order that we might rise with him to new life.

There's real drama in baptism. There's a real story here to tell that makes the announcement at the end so sweet to hear, "And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”" (Mark 1:11, NRSV) We love to hear the voice, but we forget the drama of the dying and rising in the water that go along with the announcement of our new identity.

Baptism means dying and rising.

I've met some families who really wrestle with baptism. One dad and I spoke about his son who's not baptized. His son's mother refuses to even consider it. She was never baptized and she won't hear of her son being baptized; but this dad knows full well that baptism matters. He knows in the very core of his being that his son needs to hear the word of grace that Jesus heard when he emerged up out of the water; and this dad knows that there's drama going on within a baptism that he can't deny just to placate his son's mother.

As a pastor here I've rarely turned down a chance for a baptism. There's a drama going on in church every time a child or adult comes for baptism. David Wells said it this way, "What happens at baptism is that God places a song in the new believers heart. And it is very easy for her, especially if she is around four months old, to forget the tune.” Holiness: Baptism (Mark 1:9-15) by David F. Wells Wells wisely reminds us that we need company with us to help us know the story. When we are separated from the church we lose sight of the drama of baptism. We need to know the story and to know that the drama has happened for us.


Nancy Marshall said...

Congratulations Papa Unlikely. Hope you are finding time to sleep between feedings and visitors.

Baptism. This is really the crux of the reason I became a Mennonite. The image of dying to sin and rising to new life through the power and love of Christ is such a powerful symbol.

Our Mennonite Church in Ohio "sprinkles" in the front of the congregation. I told the pastor, I want to "die and rise to life" in a lake. He said, "We dont do that, we sprinkle". A few days later he called me back and said I could be baptized at the lake nearby. So we went... everyone from the church came and lined the sides of the lake to witness this. The pastor and I walked into the lake. We were about knee high and he said, "Do we go further?" I said, "I think so because how do I fall three feet into water. It would be easier deeper. So we walked more. We were about chest deep and he said, "Nancy, I have a confession." I thought I was the one who was supposed to be doing the confessing...but I said, "Ok". He said, "I cant swim."
I told him lets get to shallow water..but he wanted to go on with the service and it went beautifully.

I was raised Lutheran, so my parents were a little upset that I was re-baptized...making me a true anabaptist. But they understand now and are supportive.
God never meant for baptism to be a divisive issue. It's a symbol of a true desire to change and be changed by God's power. I am glad to hear that you break out of the Lutheran mold and will lift up and support anyone who comes and asks to be reconnected with God through this symbol no matter what the did at 4 months of age. Public confession of faith is something we need to do more of.

Gracias, Pastor.
Blessings on your sermon this Sunday
Nancy in Belize

Unlikely said...


I've never rebaptized anyone; but I have worked with people as individuals and as groups (and once as a whole congregation) to remember their baptisms.

In the church I currently serve we have a remembrance class for 4th graders. It's not a rebaptism; but it's a discussion; with both kids and parents about what happens in general at baptisms and what happened in particular at each of the kids baptisms. As part of the tie we gather around the font and the kids will all cross themselves.

I really like remembering baptisms and think its got to be a huge part of education today in the church. Luther had a point when he told people to daily remember their baptisms in their daily washing. The real issue for our time with baptism isn't the baptism/rebaptism question as much as it is the baptism of a person who won't be part of the church vs someone who will be part of the church. It doesn't matter to me if an infant is brought for baptism or an adult is brought forward for baptism that new member of the body has to grafted on otherwise they'll die seperated from the vine.