Summary: Like Jesus, God calls us into ministry through our baptism and gives us the things that we need to meet everyone of the challenges we may face.
Mark 1: 4-11 “Adopted”
We have our challenges cut out for us this year. All of us have been affected by the economic recession. In 2009 we face a depressed housing market, depleted savings, curtailed income and the increased tension of living a hand to mouth existence. We know that these problems won’t last, but at the present time there is no end in sight.
On a different front, we face the challenges of being disciples of Jesus Christ and members of his body. Around us is a population where at least 60% are unchurched and do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ. In addition to the spiritual needs of the Surprise community, there are also physical and emotion needs of people who are struggling in these difficult economic times. The resources of the relief agencies have been exhausted. We can’t assume that someone else is going to do what needs to be done. Now, it is necessary for us to take up the challenge and meet it.
This is not bad news. Rather, it is simply a statement of reality and the world in which we live. As Christians, we have good news. We have what it takes to not only meet our personal challenges, but also the ministry challenges that confront us. We see this good news demonstrated in the gospel story for today.
We do not know much about the first thirty years of Jesus’ life. There are a few references to his bar-mitzvah at the age of twelve. A few non-canonical writings have stories about Jesus’ childhood, but there is serious doubt about their validity. What we do know is that Jesus’ ministry began after he was baptized. His baptism helped him understand who he was and what he was to do. It equipped and empowered him for ministry.
Many of us don’t really know what to do with our baptism beyond acknowledging that it was an event in our lives. We struggle with allowing it to be living history in our lives, to live in the reality of the covenant that was made at our baptism, and to open ourselves up to its molding and shaping force in our lives.
Martin Luther, during the Reformation, fought on many fronts. He waged a war against a corrupt church hierarchy, and wrestled with the devil and his demons. In his darkest moments, he struggled with doubt, despair and depression. The lifeline that Luther used to crawl out of the pit was to declare, “I have been baptized!” This declaration helped him take his mind off of his troubles and focus them on who he was and what he had been called to do.
Some people use baptism as a touchstone of what they have done. They have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and been baptized. Their baptism is a symbol of their new life and commitment to Jesus Christ. In their daily lives they can use their baptism as a reminder of their commitment. This is similar to a smoker who has kicked the habit, or an alcoholic who is on the wage. Often these people us a symbol like a crushed cigarette box or an empty bottle to remind them of the life they left behind and the commitment that they have made.
Other people use their baptism as a reminder of what God has done for them. For me personally, I find this more helpful. Baptism is a reminder of God’s love and forgiveness. We remember that our baptism was also the time when God brought us into his family and gave us the ability to call him “Father.” Our baptism reminds us of who we are and what we are about.
THE HEAVENS TORN
After Jesus was baptized, Mark records that the heavens were rent asunder. They were torn apart. This is a proclamation of access similar to the torn temple curtain when Jesus Christ died on the cross, which is recorded in Matthew and Mark.
No longer is there a separation between God and humankind. The gulf has been bridged and a relationship can begin.
Priests and intermediaries are no longer needed. The opened heavens give access to God. Whatever we face in life, we know that we can approach God as a child approaches his or her father. There is no waiting line. We will not be put on hold. Our message will not be misplaced by the secretary. Like the children of the president, we can say “Dad, I have a problem,” and have instant access—kings and prime ministers will have to wait.
The voice of God comes from heaven and tells Jesus, that he is God’s son in whom God is well pleased.
We can only imagine the impact that this message had on Jesus. Throughout his life, Jesus had been viewed as a child born out of wedlock. He was a mistake and an accident. Except for Joseph, and Mary’s relatives Elizabeth and Zechariah, believed the story that Jesus was born of the Spirit and that Mary was a virgin. Though Joseph was his adoptive father, Jesus might have struggled with the fact that he did not know his biological father. At the time of his baptism, God proclaims that Jesus is his son, and not just God’s son, but a son in whom God is well pleased.