Mark 1:4-11: John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 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. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 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. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 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. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
The story of Jesus Baptism, as told in Mark’s Gospel, gives us a clear way to see the two main elements of baptism today; and then to give some consideration to seeing how the two together, provide us a wonderful balance to our faith life. John comes baptizing for repentance. Repent of your sins and live. While many people in the church today don’t want to talk about sin, it is a reality in our world. We are all sinners and we need to repent, confess and receive the grace of forgiveness. When Jesus is baptized by John, we hear that the Holy Spirit descended upon him. The Spirit reminds us that we are always connected to our God of love, who wonderfully created each of us.
Many years ago, I overheard a rather interesting discussion between a younger female cleric and an older male cleric. The female stated clearly that she taught her children that they were created good and loving. The male wanted to argue that they were created in a state of sin. If we look at our Anglican liturgies, a case can be made for either side of the argument. However, what I think is important, in fact what I believe God wants us to understand and live as a witness to, is that this can’t be an either/or discussion, but must be a both/and.
For me, sin is anything that distances me from God. Times when I intentionally decide to take my own path. It is my nature, a human nature to do this. However, it is equally true that God loves us unconditionally, knows that we are sinners and desires relationship with us. We were made by God to be loved by God. There is a balance to us and to our relationship with God. Our life long task is to seek that balance every day.
The Rev. Canon Keith Nethery