Today is the First Sunday after Epiphany, traditionally called the Baptism of Our Lord. In this season of Epiphany, the church commemorates three specific occasions of the revealing of Christ, beginning with the visit of the Magi, who brought their gifts and worshipped the Holy child (Matthew 2:1-12). Their homage represented the adoration of all nations: that Jesus was to be the source of salvation and blessing for the whole world. The other two occasions are the Baptism of Jesus (which we celebrate on this day) and the wedding at Cana that we celebrate next Sunday (the Second Sunday after Epiphany).|
In all the gospels, John the Baptist is understood to be the forerunner of the Messiah. His preaching and baptizing fulfill Isaiah's prophecy as John prepares the way for God's coming salvation (Isaiah 40:3). Baptism by John, therefore is an act of preparation - an outward acknowledgment of sin undertaken in light of God's coming judgment and salvation in Jesus. The action takes place on the edges of society, in the wilderness, not in the safety of sacred space. The act itself challenges us to ask where are we as a church doing the work of baptism? Are we inviting and encouraging people to see that there is a different way?
It is false to pretend that our world mirrors the wilderness world in which John made his proclamation or Jesus was baptized. It seems to me there are two very real places though in this gospel that hit right in the heart of where most persons are. Firstly, the Gospel today recognizes that the world is not the kingdom of god and a new time is before us in this instance to turn, change and make things different. We are the inheritors of God's vision and we are the ones who by walking the Way of Jesus, transform the world around us that we shall in the days to come experience something new and different. We are a part of this building. Jesus is the cornerstone and we are the living stones being built up into the kingdom of God.
The second thing is this: In a world where not belonging is the norm and secret boundaries divide people, clarity about living in the family of God and how you become a member is Good News. In most places you will not be told how to belong. the "in" crowd is small, and not many, if any, of these people will share the secret entrance rites. But in the family of God everyone is a member. In fact the moment a person recognizes the Grace of God moving in their lives they are "in." Baptism is the public rite of initiation which reminds them and the church that they are already God's sacred possession. They are God's sons or daughters, they are God's beloved, they are the ones upon whom Jesus breathed the breath of life and for whom Jesus died on the cross. Baptism is the clear sign that reminds us (not God) that we are his people and the sheep of his hand.
Rev'd. Fr. Colin Humes