Ministry of the Word | 10 January 2021
COLLECT PRAYER for the DAY
at the baptism of Jesus in the river Jordan
you proclaimed him your beloved Son,
and anointed him with the Holy Spirit:
Grant that all who are baptised into his name
may keep the covenant they have made,
and boldly confess him as Lord and Saviour;
who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns,
one God, in glory everlasting,
Genesis 1: 1-5
1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
1 Ascribe to the Lord, you powers of heaven:
ascribe to the Lord glory and might.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the honour due to his name:
O worship the Lord in the beauty of his holiness.
3 The voice of the Lord is upon the waters:
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord upon the great waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is mighty in operation:
the voice of the Lord is a glorious voice.
5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedar-trees:
the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes them skip like a calf:
Lebanon and Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord divides the lightning-flash:
the voice of the Lord whirls the sands of the desert,
the Lord whirls the desert of Kadesh.
8 The voice of the Lord rends the terebinth trees,
and strips bare the forests:
in his temple all cry 'Glory.'
9 The Lord sits enthroned above the water-flood:
the Lord sits enthroned as a king for ever.
10 The Lord will give strength to his people:
the Lord will give to his people the blessing of peace.
Acts 19: 1-7
While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the interior regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples. 2 He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” They replied, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 Then he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They answered, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied— 7 altogether there were about twelve of them.
GOSPEL for the Day: Mark 1: 4-11
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.”
SERMON: Dr. Rachel McFadyen
Baptism of Jesus
How many of you remember your baptism? If you were baptised as an infant, probably not, but the date? After all, none of us remember our birth day! Rev Bev always said baptism was our most important anniversary and we should remember and celebrate the day.
Today we commemorate the baptism of Jesus, and it’s a good time to reflect on our own baptisms and what that means for us now.
Mark’s account is typically brief. His gospel has no birth or infancy stories, nothing about who John the Baptist was, just that John was in the wilderness of Judea on the river Jordan, preaching that the kingdom of God was near, and was baptising people as a sign of their repentance of their sins. And also that the Messiah, God’s messenger, was coming and that he would baptise them with the Holy Spirit.
Jesus, who hasn’t yet started his ministry, comes from Galilee south into Judea and approaches John for baptism.
In Matthew’s Gospel, John recognises Jesus and refuses to baptise him, saying rather that he John needs to be baptised by Jesus, but Jesus insists. Mark omits this, but both versions recount that as Jesus comes out of the water, he sees the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit like a dove descending on him, and hears a voice saying ‘this is my son the beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
So why did Jesus insist on being baptised? Primarily as a sign of his identification with the rest of humanity, an affirmation of his true humanity, similar to his being circumcised as a baby and presented at the temple (Luke 2: 21-39) – Jesus conforming to the pattern of life of a devout Jew, “fulfilling the Law.”
Maybe Jesus also – at this the start of his ministry – was seeking from John’s teaching some guidance for his own ministry. Jesus was probably about 34 or 35 years old at the time, if we accept that he was born around 4BC and crucified 3 years later in AD33. And up to now, he has been living quietly in Nazareth with his mother, brothers and sisters (), working as a carpenter. We don’t know what sent him out to start his ministry – how God’s spirit worked in him to send him out. Whatever it was, it sent him south to the wilderness of Judea and to John. And what he gets there is a powerful affirmation from God of his standing as God’s beloved Son, with whom God is well pleased. Jesus responds by going off into the desert to pray – to struggle with the implications of this (the temptations), and to seek guidance for his next move.
Baptism for Christians started at the Resurrection, with the risen Jesus commanding his disciples, as reported in the end of Matthew’s gospel, to ‘go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. Baptism is one of the only two sacraments put in place by Jesus, and is clearly of first importance, more so as Jesus himself chose to accept baptism from John. Our baptism therefore is a supremely important moment in our lives as Christians.
In today’s reading from Genesis, in many translations the word “wind from God” is given as “Spirit of (or from) God” – the Hebrew word “ruach” is both wind and breath and spirit - and this fits the theme of the other readings – the Spirit of God descending on Jesus at his baptism and then on the disciples in Ephesus when they were baptized by Paul.
The disciples Paul met were presumably Jews living in Ephesus, because only Jews would have been baptized by John in Judea, several years earlier. But clearly they had believed John’s message, and were waiting for the One that John had promised. So Paul found them receptive to his message about Jesus, and they accepted baptism in the Holy Spirit from Paul.
What then is the significance of baptism for us today? To quote from “A Prayer Book for Australia” p. 68 “in baptism you make us one family in Christ your Son.” That is, baptism makes us one with all other believers. It is primarily a commitment to follow Jesus, a public acknowledgement that, together with all other believers, we are followers of Jesus. Baptism is both the occasion and the symbol of the gift of the Holy Spirit into our lives. Above all it is a public affirmation that we are now a disciple and follower of Jesus, an affirmation made on our behalf by our parents and godparents and confirmed by us as young adults. For us, this is now to be our primary loyalty.
Baptism is perhaps too ‘easy’ for us – parents can take a child to have them ‘done’ with no cost to anyone, and not necessarily much belief behind it. But it is not so everywhere – we have seen the bombings of churches in Egypt and Indonesia, and attacks on Christians in Iraq, Syria and Pakistan. Being baptised can be a sentence of death for someone brought up muslim in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, or much of Syria, Iraq and Iran. Changing your religion if you were brought up a muslim is called ‘apostasy’ – abandoning your religion – and is punishable by death under sharia law – which is the law of the land in many countries, and also in several states in Malaysia and Indonesia. In both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan people are executed every year right now, for becoming a Christian.
Even here in Australia a muslim who converts to Christianity risks rejection, ostracism and isolation from his/her family and community. So the public affirmation of faith in Jesus which is involved in baptism is not always a risk-free act.
For those of us however from Christian families and in a still largely Christian and religiously tolerant country, it is easy to become blasé about baptism, indeed about our faith at all. It is good to remind ourselves – at least once a year! – of the promises that we have made and the faith we have affirmed, and to reflect on just exactly what does this faith mean to us. How are we different because we are Christians? How would our lives be different if we were not? As has been said, if following Jesus in your life (not just going to church!) was a crime, would the police find enough evidence to convict you? it is worth reflecting on what is the importance to us – to you and to me - of being publicly identified as followers of Jesus who was born in Judea 2020+ years ago, who was crucified by the roman authorities and who we believe rose again to be with God in eternity. And what significance does this have in our lives?
For me, the major significance has been that ultimately, the only thing that matters is God and God’s values. That is, success or lack of it, money or lack of it, even family or lack of them, may affect how I have felt as my life unrolled, but did not and does not alter my sense of self or sense of the value or significance of my life – because the truth is that only God’s values matter. And God cares, I believe, not about what I have or have not achieved but what I have attempted. Have I tried to live God’s values, tried to follow Jesus, tried to do as he would have me do? If I have, then success or failure is in God’s hands not mine. And it is irrelevant because on the one hand, none of us are going to achieve complete success in following Jesus, but on the other hand God promises acceptance of us however inadequate we may be.
So in that sense outcomes don’t matter – it is indeed the journey that matters. Jesus said to his disciples ‘do not worry about your life, for your heavenly Father knows what you need.’ I think I would be a very different person if I had not lived in the knowledge that God was the God of the incarnation, a God who cares about humanity enough to send his Son down to live among us and die for us. And that therefore I too matter, not for what I can achieve but simply for being a child of God. To quote the words of Desmond Tutu, I can be confident that ‘the texture of our universe is one where there is no question at all but that good and laughter and justice will prevail .. in the end.’
Our world is a deeply uncertain place, and in the year past, even prosperous and safe Australia has not looked so safe or secure. The events of last week, from riots in the US to lock-down in Brisbane, didn’t help. Yet as I have previously said, I have a mug with the slogan “Everything will be ok in the end – and if it’s not ok, it’s not the end” and this is indeed what I believe – that God is in charge, God’s Spirit moves across the earth as it did in the beginning, and ultimately things will work out according to God’s will.
That’s my view of what being a Christian means to me – you may all have a different perspective. But I urge us all to take some time to reflect on what does it mean to each person as an individual to be a baptized Christian, what is the bedrock of your faith, the non-negotiable core, and what is and has been the impact of this faith in your life.
Let us pray one of the collects for today, the baptism of our Lord:
Spirit of energy and change,
in whose power Jesus was anointed
to be the hope of the nations:
be poured out also upon us
without reserve or distinction,
that we may have confidence and strength
to implant your justice on the earth;
through Jesus Christ. Amen.
PRAYERS of the PEOPLE: Prepared by Mary Rose
The Lord will give strength to his people and the blessing of peace.
Loving God, at the beginning of this new year we bring you our prayers for your world and for your church especially remembering all who are suffering physically, mentally or financially as a result of Covid-19. We uphold to you the communities of SE Queensland as we again enter lockdown; may we find peace and purpose, and be mindful of the needs of others in this anxious time. We give thanks for our politicians and the medical advisers who have kept us comparatively safe from the worst of the pandemic. Be with those who suffer war, terrorism, famine or disease, and those who have fled their homes to seek a safe haven. Touch the hearts of those who perpetuate terror and injustice. We pray for the peaceful resolution of the turmoil in the USA. Mindful of your disturbing words of justice and peace, may we be emboldened to speak your word in places of conflict and oppression.
Loving God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
We pray for your church world-wide, remembering especially those who are being persecuted for their faith. We pray for The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia; Ministry to the Defence Force & Members of the Defence Force; The Parish of Texas-Inglewood; Chermside Anglican Welfare Ministries; and St Andrew’s Anglican College, Peregian Springs. In our parish we pray for our Rector Jan, Jonathan, David and all associate priests, our parish council and all our parishioners. Mindful of your liberating words of repentance and truth, may we be emboldened to speak your word in places of disobedience and unbelief.
Loving God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
We pray for the forgotten and unwanted people of our community - the hungry and homeless, and those without friends or family to care for them. We pray for our families and friends and all we love. Mindful of your reconciling words of compassion and love, may we be emboldened to speak your word in places of alienation and loneliness.
Loving God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
We pray for all who need prayer especially Arno, Bill, Janet, Billie, Melanie, Graham, Max, Ian, Gillian, Peter, Ruth, Gwen and Rob, Matthew, Beth, Colin, Ioanna, Jane, Rebecca, Holley, Mervyn, Tricia, Ros and others who are in our hearts ….. We pray for all carers, medical staff and chaplains. Be with those who are wounded in body, heart, mind or spirit and relieve their anxiety, pain and despair. Mindful of your consoling words of healing and hope, may we be emboldened to speak your word in places of pain and grief.
Loving God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
We give you thanks for your faithful peoples, for your prophets and saints of old and today. We bring before you the repose of the soul of John Rynn. We remember also those whose year’s mind fall at this time …..Make us witnesses to your gospel in the world, that with all your saints, we may be brought safely through death to everlasting life with you.
Living God, enliven, guide and strengthen our Church in all you send us to do, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
FINAL PRAYER and BLESSING:
Blessed are you, Lord our God,
you have created the heavens and the earth.
Blessed are you, Jesus Christ,
you came among us and were baptised of John.
Blessed are you, Holy life-giving Spirit,
you descend as the dove and you fill us with life.
Blessed are you, Holy Three.
In you we live and move and have our being;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be upon you, and those whom you love and care for,
this day, and always.