Epiphany 1, Mark 1, baptism
A sermon for Epiphany 1 Genesis 1:15, Psalm 29, Acts 19:17, Mark 1:411
Good morning, it’s good to stop by home in the midst of this session of my DMin. studies, before I head off for next week’s adventures in faith and health, which focuses on public health while last weeks’ focus was on self-health, specifically clergy health. We discussed nutrition, relaxation techniques, yoga I can do, no strange named poses, just relax on the floor and follow simple meditation guides, and our own: health assessment, concerns and what we plan to do about it. Our professor said it more than once “You can’t minister if you don’t have a body.”
Now, I had planned to spend some time every evening preparing for this morning’s sermon. It didn’t quite work as I thought and as I drifted to sleep Friday night I had no – well just a vague idea about what to say. And Saturday morning in contemplative prayer the question arose “What has baptism got to do with self-health?” It’s a better, deeper question than I first thought.
You know that today we celebrate Jesus’ Baptism. You have heard, and I have preached sermons on John the Baptist’s prophetic dress the Baptismal Covenant’s
“I renounce them”
“Will you … do all in your power to support [the newly baptized]
in their life in Christ?”
“I will with God’s help”
“will you seek and serve Christ in all persons …?”
God tearing the heavens apart and the very next verses of Jesus being driven into the wilderness. We know this story, it’s almost as heard to preach as Christmas or Easter.
But then again. Part of my new gleaning is to pay attention just to Mark’s Gospel, in particular to what is not here. Jesus’ Baptism begins in Chapter 1 verse 9. Before this and through the scene Jesus does nothing, Jesus says nothing. All we read is Jesus comes from Nazareth to the Jordan, and is baptized by John. As he is coming out of the water “he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
The scene is unique to Mark, in that “he saw,”, and by implication “he heard.” Not John the Baptist, not any of the lingering crowd, if there is any, Jesus and Jesus alone, sees the vail, the barrier between and heaven and earth shredded, hears God speak, and sees the Holy Spirit’s presence. It’s an extremely private and intimate scene. Jesus hears God tell him:
“You are my Son, the Beloved;
with you I am well pleased.”
Putting God’s words in Mark’s context in which Jesus has not previously been seen nor heard we catch the reality that God simply love Jesus, God is simply well pleased with Jesus.
Much later in Mark’s Gospel story you will remember when James and John ask to be Jesus’ top assistants, and Jesus asks
“Are you able to … be baptized with the baptism
that I am baptized with?” (Mark 10:38)
and then tells them
“… with the baptism with which I am baptized,
you will be baptized; (Mark 10:39)
Our Christian belief has long held such promises made to Jesus’ disciples are applicable to us. Thus we too have been baptized with the same baptism Jesus receives. Thus God has said specifically and intimately to you:
“You are my beloved,
with you and am well pleased”
and not because of what you have said, nor what you have done, nor what you have not said nor done. God simply loves you. God is simply well pleased with you. Timothy Warren writes:
Oh, to live with the knowledge that someone is well pleased with you just because of who you are! (Warren)
That’s such a critical truth.
Just look around we are surrounded by ‘like’s, ‘follow’s, ‘fan’s, and ‘friend’s, and who knows what else; everyone is seeking some sort of affirmation that “I belong” But there is a difference between affirmation and acceptance. Affirmation says “you are like us.” Acceptance is simply being known and valued for you are, as you are. (Lose) Oh to be loved well pleasing for who you are.
This biblical vignette is not merely warm and fuzzy. I believe the next verses, which are not included in the lectionary, are part of the same scene. You know them:
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. (Mark 1:12-13)
And yes, this is all there is to Mark’s account of the temptation. But it’s connection to Jesus’ baptism is crucial, because it reminds us, our relationship with God is not passive acceptance, our relationship with God includes an acting component. Scott Hoezee shared a story about a teenage Sunday school class.
[The teacher says] When Jesus was baptized the heavens that separate us from God were ripped open so that now we can get to God. Because of Jesus we have access to God–we can get close to him.” … a teen says “That ain’t what it means.” What?” [the startled teacher says.] The teen says “that ain’t what that means. … It means that the heavens were ripped open so that that now God can get at us anytime he wants. Now nobody’s safe!” (Hoezee)
The teen is right, none of us are safe. We put ourselves at risk every time we share our story of the story. We are not at physical risk as some Christians are; however, we might be embarrassed by sharing, we might be uncomfortable in sharing, and both are risky. But you know what, I really believe these are opportunities to testify, by our behavior, to our trust in God / Jesus and the Spirit (that other part of god’s gift in baptism) to be with us and surround us with accepting love which conquers our fear of unease and embarrassment, for no matter how we share, or how what we share is received God loves us, God accepts us just because. (Lose)
So as I head to Atlanta, I am going drenched in the belief that I am God’s beloved, and that is well pleasing to God. My prayer for you, is your that your week, this and every week, begins and ends drenched in the belief that you are God’s beloved, and that is well pleasing to God. Amen.
And oh yea, the self- health question, ~ what will happen as we love our physical bodies as God does, just because our bodies are as we are? You know we can ~ with God’s help.
Hoezee, Scott. The Lectionary Gospel Text is: Mark 1:4-11. 11 1 2015. .
Lose, David. Baptism of Our Lord B: Baptism &. 11 1 2015.
Warren, Rev. Timothy. Sermons that Work – Reaching those who long to be loved. 11 1 2015.