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Year C, Baptism of the Lord, 2016 – Water, Water, Everywhere!

January 5, 2016 / Molly Douthett / Baptism of the Lord, Epiphany

Greetings in the Name of the Lord!

Welcome back to More Than Hearing! This liturgical year is a little unusual; we have had TWO Christmas Sundays and Epiphany fell on a Thursday this year. (We marked it by spending a couple hours in a planning meeting for our upcoming Winter Retreat with our youth.) Because of this, we have made the decision to forego Epiphany this year and go right into the Baptism of the Lord. The Gospel story that cites the baptism comes from Luke who did not spend much time on it at all. I suspect that may be why there are so many effusive references to water, God’s presence, and God’s power in the other texts. In the Acts passage assigned for today, we have a story about a baptism with the Holy Spirit, but Jesus’ own baptism is mentioned as a fait accompli.

This week’s texts are:

  • Isaiah 43:1-7  – If Second Isaiah were part of a song, the passage for today would be in a bright major key. There would be lush strings, bold brass, sweeping melodies, and warm touches throughout. God is present with God’s people, and God will bring them home. Not only that, but God calls them by name and claims them as God’s own. We may be familiar with the concept of belonging to God, but these verses bring that idea to us with vivid imagery. Are you struggling in deep water? Is your pathway beset by fire? Don’t be afraid, God is with you. Janet Hunt, who blogs at Dancing with the Word, wonders if Jesus was thinking of Isaiah after his cousin John baptized him and he heard the Presence affirm his identity as the Beloved. I wonder how much hearing this affected his ministry? How might ours be different if we heard God say this to us?

 

  • Psalm 29 – If our local TV weatherman is a believer, I’ll bet this Psalm is his favorite. It is a meteorological tour de force! The Psalmist begins by telling the heavenly beings to give praise to God’s name and then goes on to show why. God’s powerful, majestic voice makes things happen – chief among them is what we might describe as a massive thunderstorm. When cedars break and oaks twirl and trees are torn away, we know something powerful has passed through. To my imagination, this storm will require a lot of clean up but the Psalmist is not yet ready to pick up the brooms and fire up chain saws. The Psalmist wants us to stand in awe at what we have seen AND to say, “Glory!” I suspect we already do when we go outside and witness the after effects of storms. We look around and see the deep snow, the broken tree limbs, the rock and mud slides, and we experience a bone deep awareness of power that goes where and when it wants. We may use different words, but isn’t the feeling behind them one that could be expressed with the word “glory”?

 

  • Acts 8:14-17 – Apart from a story about John and Peter laying hands on believers in Samaria so that they might be baptized with the Holy Spirit, there does not seem to be much that connects with Jesus’ baptism in this passage. In fact, this passage raises many questions about baptism that tend to pull us away from the sacrament and into squabbles. Which is where the passage begins, actually. Believers in Jerusalem heard about people in Samaria accepting God’s word. In a nutshell, there is historical enmity between those who returned to Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile and those who remained in Samaria while they were gone. Jesus himself used a person from Samaria to great effect to teach about mercy and grace, and I suspect John and Peter remembered an encounter with a Samaritan woman at a well one hot day. Regardless of the history between these people, the motion in this passage is direct and without delay. They heard, they went, they prayed and laid on hands, they received the Spirit. Where does this kind of flow occur in your ministry?

 

  • Luke 3:15-18, 21-22 – And finally, the passage around which the entire day revolves! Except it is so abrupt it seems almost a throwaway scene. For the drama in the story, one needs to go to Matthew’s version where Jesus and John debate who should be baptizing whom. Here in Luke, Jesus’ baptism happens in the midst of many other baptisms. The only difference between his and theirs recorded here is that while Jesus was taking time to pray afterwards, the heavens opened, and the Spirit in the form of a dove descended on him, and a voice spoke from heaven identifying him as God’s son. Okay, I take back what I said about drama! If the first part of the reading sounds familiar, that’s because we looked at it for the third Sunday in Advent. Once again, we contrast the baptism of water and the baptism of fire, and this time consider the beneficial effects of each element. Water restores and refreshes while fire warms and illuminates. After the spectacular show in the Psalm, these images are calming and healing. As you explore the theme of baptism for this Sunday, how will you integrate the promise in Isaiah, the power in the Psalm, the dynamic movement in Acts, and the story in Luke?

 

Links …

 

... in Isaiah 

 

in the Psalm

 

... in Luke

 

Resources

This is just a really cool and powerful use of words by some talented young women: Changing the World, One Word at a Time – Queen Latifah Show (Use this as an example for reading Psalm 29!)

 

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