1 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'”
4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
The someecard reads: “I can’t believe it’s been a year since I didn’t become a better person.” It’s the New Year. Will it be the same as the Old Year? One of the better features of the liturgical year is that we get to start over every year. Every year in the fictional world of the liturgical calendar, Jesus is born and lives and dies and rises again. But this is the beginning. Again. The beginning again.
This week’s passage is Mark 1:1-11. For those keeping score at home, the lectionary starts at verse 4, but I like the beginning because, well, it’s the beginning. Our Christmas stories typically come from Matthew and Luke, who choose to locate the beginning of the story of Jesus at his birth. However, Mark and John choose something else. For John, the beginning is so far in the past as to not even be the past, but a time beyond time. Mark chooses the much-easier-to-explain beginning of Jesus ministry, his baptism by John the Baptist in the River Jordan.
As an “ecumergent” church, there are probably a lot of different ways of understanding baptism. However, there are a couple of things we all might share. First, baptism is the beginning of inclusion in the Body of Christ. Whatever we take being a Christian to be, baptism has always been a critical sign of commitment to being one, of living into whatever we take it to be and claiming the right to wrestle with what it will be. Second, there is some sense in which whatever has come before is washed away. John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance and forgiveness. We turn away from the mistakes of the past and turn towards the possibilities of the future. We turn toward God. Like the New Year, it is a new beginning, beginning again to be the thing we always knew we were.
Join us this Sunday as we share in our new beginning, beginning again.
Grace and Peace,