First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A, RCL
Like most of the people present here today, I have no memory of my own baptism. I know that I was about a month old, and that means it was probably a very hot day in an
I know that Barbara, my Godmother, makes the best biscuits and gravy I’ve ever eaten and roots whole heartedly for the Arkansas Razorbacks. (Woo-pig-sooey – sorry Carolina/Clemson fans, my football loyalties were a birthright!)
I know that my Godfather, Carl, met my mother and dad while studying literature and writing at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and that as a quadriplegic, he never really had the opportunity to hold me as a baby.
I know that the priest who baptized me (Charlie Chatham) wore a t-shirt to the after-church get together that said “bionic padre.” And he’s still in active ministry and serving an Episcopal Church in
Other than those few facts, mostly based on the some backyard pictures taken after the “event,” I have no memories of my own baptism; no personal recollection of my own initiation into the faith practice. And yet, the actions of my parents, my godparents and the faith community that I was invited into that day was the beginning of my journey on a path toward vocation, livelihood, ministry and praxis.
I offer this story of my own baptism on the same day that our scriptures tells of Jesus’ baptism – a day I’m sure he remembered, probably quite vividly – throughout his three years of ministry. The scripture tells us that Jesus was about thirty years old and that he went to the river to meet John in order to be baptized by him. I’ve tried to imagine what this day might have been like, what thoughts may have been going through his head.
Did he know that this was going to be a significant event – that when the baptism would occur the skies would open up and this world would never be the same? Was he already fully aware of all that was expected of him, all that would occur in his life here on earth – or did he embark on his mission with questions, yet answering a call to step out on faith.
Our own baptismal covenant, our own call to a life of mission and ministry as baptized Christians is made up of questions asked, and responses made by stepping out on faith.
My baptism did not elicit an event as significant as God’s pronouncement as, “this is my beloved, with whom I am well pleased”. And yet, as I continue to walk in a path of ministry, as my years of lay ministry (nearly 30) and my years of ordained ministry, well, one year of ordained ministry, I am thankful for the Baptismal Covenant that invites me to step out on faith – to strive to be a faithful believer, to seek out a faith community and practice, to seek those in need of God’s tender care, and humanity’s conscious attempt to care.
Jesus came from Galilee to John at the
What is significant about this moment, this exchange as it is recorded in Matthew, is that Jesus accepts John’s baptism, and accepts the mark of the renunciation of evil and sin, just as each of us renounces this darkness in our own baptism.
Immediately following this passage Jesus will be sent to face temptation – the first challenge to his authority, strength and ability to lead. Most of us will not face the kind of temptation experience that scripture tells us Jesus went through, but we are empowered through the community, through the network of faith practitioners and partners around us to face whatever evils, whatever hardships, whatever fears we must face.
Our baptism is not merely a magical kind of protection that we place over our heads and offer on our children. It is an initiation into a faith community, a new family of brothers and sisters, connected not through blood relationship, but through a community of care and active relationship building.
And so this morning, as we stand together and renew our own baptismal covenants individuals and as a community, I invite you to think of the faith communities that baptized you that raised you that fed and nourished you along your path to this place. I invite you to reflect on your baptism in relation to that of Jesus, and what it means to embrace his baptism and your own as a mark of a path to ministry, as a call to respond to the needs of the world and to face your fears as a child of God. Step out on faith, and know that you do so in the midst of community, therefore you do so not alone, but with God’s help. Amen.
Delivered Sunday, January 13, 2007
The Episcopal Church of Our Saviour, Rock Hill, SC