MESSAGE: Baptism of our Lord – C – 9 January 2022
THEMES: Baptism, empowered with the Holy Spirit!
The first Sunday after Epiphany always focuses on the baptism of Jesus.
This year Luke’s version of this story is the main reading.
You might notice that Luke gives a very thin description of the events – just two simple verses explaining that Jesus was baptised and that the Holy Spirit descended and God’s voice spoke words of affirmation.
But, in the reading that is set for this Sunday, a few additional verses are included before the baptism account.
Here we find John telling people about the One who was to come, and proclaiming him as the one who would baptise others with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
It must have been tempting for John to accept the praise and devotion of the crowds.
For a short moment he was the centre of attention for large numbers of people, and they began to wonder whether he might be the one they’d been waiting for.
I wonder whether their speculative comments got into John’s heart at all.
I wonder whether he ever questioned if he’d misunderstood God’s call and if they might have been right.
If so, there is no sign of it in today’s reading. Rather, we see John making a clear declaration that the one to come would be far greater than he.
He could only baptise with water, but the Coming One would offer a baptism unlike any they had ever known – a baptism, an immersion, in God’s Spirit and God’s purifying fire. Then, when Jesus came, John happily withdrew into the background, knowing that his job was done.
John’s baptism was one of repentance and forgiveness. It seems strange that Jesus would choose to receive such a baptism, but again there was a clear message in this simple act.
Jesus had not come to rise over humanity, or to rule the people around him.
Jesus had not come to be separate from humanity and their experience – even their sin.
Instead, Jesus came to stand with us, alongside us, and to identify wholly with us, so that we would know that God was not distant from us.
Also, Jesus came to show us that we would be called to share in all that he came to do, and so the power that was available to him – God’s Spirit – would
also be available to us.
How can you learn today from John’s humility and clear sense of call, and from Jesus’ companionship and gift of God’s Spirit?
The other readings that you may hear in church this week all reflect on this “baptism in the Holy Spirit” and how it touches followers of Jesus.
This means that the Scriptures for this week are inviting us to be more than spectators of Jesus experience of baptism.
They are inviting us to be participants in the baptism in the Holy Spirit that Jesus brings.
As we face the challenges of each day, as we wrestle with the great crises of our time, we cannot help but recognise that we need resources beyond our human abilities and wisdom.
We cannot heal our planet with human effort alone.
We cannot bring peace to the world through human wisdom alone.
We cannot eradicate poverty or dread disease, and we cannot provide homes, sanitation, water and food for everyone on earth through human ability only.
Even on a personal level, we cannot find abundant life in our own strength.
We need love beyond our own to keep our relationships strong and healthy.
We need generosity beyond our own to ensure that our families and communities can have enough to live.
We need grace and forgiveness beyond our own to find ways to reconcile with those who have hurt us or have been hurt by us.
The Good News this week, though, is that God has provided us with resources beyond our human capacities.
God has made available to us divine wisdom, strength, guidance, and love through God’s Holy Spirit.
This week our reflections will help us to be ever more ready to receive this amazing gift.
“Come, Holy Spirit” is a simple but powerful prayer. It invites the Spirit of God to guide and direct us, to strengthen and purify us. It’s not that God’s Spirit is not with us unless we pray this prayer. It’s that, in praying like this, we open our awareness to recognise the presence and power of God’s Spirit. Go through today with this prayer on your lips and in your heart, and be ready to receive a new sense of God’s presence and power.
Come, Holy Spirit