Year B Baptism of Our Lord Mark 1 2011
Back To Basics: The Three R's of Baptism
Baptism is a powerful force in the life of a Christian for two reasons. It is something we share in common. Christians all over the world can say that they were baptized in Christ. You met a Catholic in Ireland. He was baptized. You met a Pentecostal in Nigeria. She was baptized. The second reason Baptism is a powerful force is that baptism takes us back to the basics. Now let me set these two ideas up for you with a couple of stories.
You perhaps at one time or another have seen on TV the old black and white video footage of the civil rights marches in the sixties. Martin Luther King often at the front received his share of stinging high-pressured water hoses. Rev. King once remarked that he and the other marchers had a common strength. He put it this way, as "we went before the fire hoses; we had known water. If we were a Baptist or some other denomination, we had been immersed. If we were Methodist, and some others, we had been sprinkled, but we knew water."
You and I know the water. All of God's children know the water. We share by our faith this common symbol, this initiation, this rite, this power of God over the deep and often raging chaos of life. We know water! All over the world Baptism unites us.
It also brings us back to the basics. Perhaps in our lifetime the most public statement of repentance was that of President Bill Clinton's. The one he made before a Prayer Breakfast on September 10, 1998. He summed up the task perfectly when he said, "I don't think there is a fancy way to say that I have sinned." Then he quoted from a book given him by a Jewish friend in Florida. The book is called "Gates of Repentance."
Clinton read this passage from the book: "Now is the time for turning. The leaves are beginning to turn from green to red to orange. The birds are beginning to turn and are heading once more toward the south. The animals are beginning to turn to storing their food for the winter. For leaves, birds and animals, turning comes instinctively. But for us, turning does not come so easily. It takes an act of will for us to make a turn. It means breaking old habits. It means admitting that we have been wrong, and this is never easy. It means losing face. It means starting all over again. And this is always painful. It means saying I am sorry. It means recognizing that we have the ability to change. These things are terribly hard to do. But unless we turn, we will be trapped forever in yesterday's ways."
Clinton's quote ended with this prayer: "Lord help us to turn, from callousness to sensitivity, from hostility to love, from pettiness to purpose, from envy to contentment, from carelessness to discipline, from fear to faith. Turn us around, O Lord, and bring us back toward you. Revive our lives as at the beginning and turn us toward each other, Lord, for in isolation there is no life."
What ever you might think of Clinton and his sincerity, he understood that he needed to do something very basic before the nation. He needed to repent. It's amazing isn't it? Not even a president can escape the basic truths of life. It's like in elementary school. Our parents and teachers understand the importance of building a strong foundation for a child's future. So, we were taught the basics, the three R's: Reading, writing, and arithmetic. Ever notice that only one of those begins with an R. I always thought the fellow that came up with that one needed to go back to school.
As parents and teachers and leaders today we would do well to remember that life is still composed of basics. That is why, when Mark chose to open his Gospel, he did so with the Baptism of Jesus at the Jordan. Baptism reminds us of the three R's of the soul: Repentance, righteousness, and revelation. So, don't be amazed when a president of the United States repents before the nation for even Christ himself, as we have just read, began his ministry identifying with the basics: repentance, righteousness, and revelation. Christ submitted himself to the basics. You ask me, Pastor, why should I be baptized? My answer is, Christ himself was baptized, so should you. Baptism begins the most basic elements of the Christian walk: Repentance from sin, a life of righteousness, and an understanding that God has reveled himself in Christ.
Let's take a look at our Lord's Baptism and what it tells us about the three spiritual R's:
- The first R is Repentance.
- The second R is Righteousness.
- The third R is Revelation.
Prophesy Your Way Forward
The worst thing about January 1?
The worst thing about January 1 is that we are immediately inundated with two of the most depressing messages imaginable.
First, we are barraged and berated online, on tv, on buses, with the fact that it is high time to lose weight.
Second, we begin to get reminded that it's time to do our taxes.
As if January weren't dark enough on its own.
Is it that our consumer culture doesn't have anything else to hawk in these maxed out credit card winter days except sleek new diet plans and snazzy new tax prep programs?
Happy New Year!
Every new beginning deserves to be heralded as "good news," not "more work." We don't celebrate an engagement announcement by be-moaning the price of wedding cakes. We don't rejoice at the news of a new child by adding up the lost hours of sleep ahead. We don't embrace a new career with the thought that it will take over every moment of our life.
We don't buy a new "house" with a hefty mortgage and iffy plumbing and a drafty attic. We buy a new "home" to love and live in.
In that respect we are all "magi." We are all the "wise men" of the Nativity...