The baptismal waters which wash us clean are the same waters of justice which roll down and shape the landscape. shape the people, and shape our relationships into the Beloved Community of God. These waters of justice, waters of life, waters of our baptism remind us that our primary identity is as God’s Beloved in whom God is well pleased.
January 14, 2024
The Gospel of Mark, Chapter 1
Mark 1: 4-11
Rev. Dr. Heather W. McColl
Mark 1: 4-11
. . . so John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And the whole Judean region and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him and were baptized by him in the River Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the strap of his sandals. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
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 upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my Son, the Beloved;[d] with you I am well pleased.”
Beloved Mark 1: 4-11
We are not going to have a sermon today, at least in the typical sense. Today, the sermon is more interactive. The sermon does not come from the pulpit. Rather the sermon today comes to us in the invitation to dip our hands in the water, and remember our baptisms, to remember that moment when we first hear the words, “You are God’s Beloved in whom God is well pleased.”. The sermon today comes to us through the waters of life, waters which have nurtured us, which have strengthened us, which have soothed our hurts, waters which have renewed us, which have revived us, waters which have healed us and made us whole.
I shared earlier this week that this service is one of my favorite services which we do at Midway Christian. It is the service where I have the honor of inviting everyone to come forward and dip their hands in the waters. As a pastor, this is such an intimate moment which I get to have with each and everyone as I look them in the eyes, run water over their hands, and say this blessing over them…”You are God’s Beloved in Whom God is Well Pleased.”
For Midway Christian Church, for us as people of faith, this invitation to remember our baptisms is a moment for new beginnings. It is a moment where we as a community of faith are invited to open our hearts, to our minds to “becoming instruments which bring unity and peace to our neighbors.” It is a moment to remember our personal transformation into becoming the person God created and calls us to be.
But this year, for me, for us, this year feels a little different. And what I have discerned is that this year, this service feels more than just an opportunity to remember our baptisms. It also feels like a cleansing moment for us as a community of faith. What I mean by this is that after a couple of years filled with grief and sorrow, after an opportunity for us as a community of faith to process that grief, to have an emotional cleansing if you will, for me, for us, this year’s service feels like an opportunity to have a spiritual cleansing as well, to wash away the stuff, for lack of a better word, that is preventing us from becoming the community of love and grace which God is calling us to be. This service is an opportunity to wash away the broken visions of what we thought we would be, of what we thought our lives would be, and allow the waters of new life to seep into our skins, to seep into our souls, to allow the waters of new life to seep into our spirits and end the spiritual drought, a drought which came about because we were, we are holding on so tight to who we used to be as a community of faith. For me, for us, this service feels a little different this year because we as a community of faith are ready, ready to ask those tough questions of transformation, questions like who is my neighbor, questions like if this program, this ministry is not working any more, is it time to let it go. For me, for us, this service feels a little different this year because it feels more like a cleansing, making us ready for an infusion of the Holy Spirit.
The reason I say this is is because I do not think it is a coincidence that this service of remembering our baptism falls on the same weekend we remember the life, ministry of Martin Luther King and his call for social change. One could argue that that is simply because of the timing of events at church. But for me, I would say it is more like God’s timing because it is a reminder that when we are baptized, we are baptized into something. We are baptized and become part of the wider Body of Christ. The baptismal waters which wash us clean are the same waters of justice which roll down and shape the landscape. shape the people, shape our relationships into the Beloved Community of God. These waters of justice, these waters of life, these waters of our baptism remind us that at our primary identity, that everyone’s primary identity is God’s Beloved in Whom God is Well Pleased.
This is what brings us hope. This is what infuses our lives with the grace and peace of the Kingdom of God… the life changing, the life transforming news that the God who created the heavens and the earth loves us more than we will ever know. The God who is Almighty and Majestic wraps God’s arms around us and holds us close when we are hurting. The God who was, who is, and who is to come, knows our coming and our going and never leaves us alone. The God who brought forth light out of the darkness has claimed us and named us as God’s very own.
In a few minutes, everyone will be invited to remember our baptisms, to remember what it was like to emerge from the water, to remember what it was like to have the water on our foreheads and to remember God’s promises made to you that day.
As we dip our hands in the water, let us Remember that we are claimed and named. remember that we have been transformed and that our lives are called to be blessings for others.
Remember that from the moment we emerged from the waters, we were called to live a life based on the principles of the Kingdom of God, embracing our mission which is to bring love, healing, comfort, justice and peace for all of God’s creation.
In just a few moments, you will be invited to come forward and remember your baptism. And as you do, Remember your call as one of God’s children to bring hope and grace to all that are hurting. remember your call as one of God’s servants to support those around you on their journey. remember your call to pray for one another and to pray to nourish your spirit.
As we dip our hands in the water, Remember whose we are. We are God’s, named and claimed as one of God’s own, loved more than we could ever imagine. Remember we are children of God in whom God takes great delight. Let us Never forget this bit of good news because this bit of life-transforming, this bit of earth-shattering, this bit of life giving news makes all the difference for you and me as children of God, loved more than we could ever imagine.
See also: Theology Tuesday for Sunday, January 14, 2024 – Beloved Mark 1: 4-11.
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