Rev. Sharon Prentis
11th January 2015
The baptism of Jesus

There are a number of interesting facts about New Year’s Resolutions. Around 45% of us will make them. The most popular ones tend to concern self-improvement or education. The number one resolution is yes- you have guessed it- losing weight. The second is becoming more organised and the third is spending – Spending less and saving more. Quitting Smoking is number 8. I love the 9th most popular resolution, which is “To help others”. Sadly, the reality is that only 8% of people are successful in achieving their resolution and making a lasting change 92% fail. I have to confess my resolution this year lasted for 4 days.

Starting some thing new is something we all can recognise. In the church baptism is a recognition of a new life in Christ. In our reading from Mark’s gospel Jesus comes to the Jordan and he has the humility to receive baptism from John. It is only after Jesus comes up out of the water from John’s baptism that the Spirit descends on Jesus. The scripture says the heavens were ripped apart and the spirit descended like a dove descends and there was a voice from heaven saying. “here is my beloved son”. Picture it.

John the Baptist said, “Jesus will baptise with the Holy Spirit”. We often speak of baptism as a “means of grace,” that is, one of the ways that God’s grace comes to us. Physically it’s only a small splash of water, but it marks the beginning of a whole new life of forgiveness, of the presence of God’s Spirit, of our union with Jesus, and our becoming part of the world-wide Christian church.

Baptism is God’s doing not ours. Baptism is a rich and powerful symbol. Today we read about two men, John and Jesus, both of whom show a radical humility. In their time slaves untied the thongs of sandals – so John is saying he is not worthy to be considered as a slave of Jesus.

In the Mark’s gospel John’s baptism had two parts- repentance and forgiveness (Mark 1:4). John explains that Jesus baptism is not only with water, but with the Holy Spirit. That is still true of baptism today. The baptismal liturgy marks the end of the old life (“Do you renounce … ”) and it announces the beginning of a life lived in God’s grace and forgiveness. Then John adds a new twist with the gift of the Holy Spirit, also part of our baptism service.

To be baptised in Jesus is to follow him. Just like our New Years resolutions we cannot follow Christ in our own strength, through our own abilities. We need the Holy Spirit. He gives us the strength, confidence and ability to stand in the face of evil, to face challenges in our own lives, to feel, pray and act for others. God gives us his grace.The process started immediately at Pentecost, when God gives the disciples the gift of the Spirit to carry on this new life in Christ. After his sermon on Pentecost, the listeners ask the apostle Peter how they should respond, he answers with similar words we use in the baptism service “Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins will be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

The reality is the grace of Baptism doesn’t stop at the service it continues to unfold. It follows faith — the faith of the person being baptised (Acts 8:13,36), or the faith of the parents of those in the church as it requires that faith is nurtured and developed.

Baptism is more than an individual act. In it we become part of a people: the church The Apostle Paul emphasises how “we were all baptised into one body. For every one that gets baptised in St. Matthew’s we promise to support them in their faith.

What does it mean for us today! we are embraced into a relationship that is new life. A fundamental change takes place, no matter what.age, where we find ourselves in life. An adult or child who is baptised into the faith they are changed through grace. It may not be an obvious ground breaking experience in the physical but in the heavens- it is.

We also become part of Christ’s body. Paul writes that “for by one Spirit we were all baptised into one body. In his last conversation with his disciples, Jesus spoke again about baptism. He told them, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” in terms of resolutions the first one becomes to love god with all our hearts and what that entails and the second one love others as ourselves. It no longer is relegated to something we do after we have taken care of ourselves- first. Is is an integral part of loving God.

My invitation to you is to let Mark spark your baptismal imagination. Because then you will give witness to God’s determination to tear heaven apart to reach out to you. For Mark, God’s entry into our humanity started at Jesus’ baptism and was then confirmed at Jesus’ crucifixion.

I suspect I would be able to keep New Year’s resolution longer than four days if I had people around me supporting and telling me how I might be able to keep them. In many ways the gift of the holy spirit works through us, his word -the bible and his inspiration. he encourages us and reminds us that we are loved and close to God’s heart. Today let us hear God saying to us, “You are my beloved son, my beloved daughter: with you I am well pleased.”

Mark 1:4-11