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Theme for the Week – 10 January 2016

The Baptism of Christ

Scripture: Isaiah 43:1-7; Psalm 29; Acts 8:14-17; Luke 3:15–17, 21-22

Last August, I conducted a baptism in the sea, at the beach in Punta Prima, Menorca.

A baptism in the sea is a powerful reminder of the connection between the water of physical life and the spirit of the creative force of God, and our identity within the created order.

Baptism is about identity, but less about naming than about our identity being affirmed in relationship with God.

Our identities are, in fact, defined by the relationships that we have. In isolation, one could argue that we have no identity. Identity is forged in childhood and refined through the relationships of youth and adulthood. The most important relationship in defining identity is the one that we have with God.

To be in relationship with God the Creator puts us in relationship with all of creation and carries with it a sense of responsibility for all of creation; it puts us in relationship with all of humanity and carries with it a sense of responsibility for all of humanity.

This is reflected in the baptismal covenant, which calls us to continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers; to persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever we fall into sin, to repent; to proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ; to seek and serve Christ in all people, loving neighbour as self; and to defend the weak, and seek peace and justice.

Jesus wraps all of this together in his baptism, an expression of solidarity with all of humanity. His identity becomes tied up in ours, and our identity in his. When we fall short of our potential, we mar the image of Christ in us.

Underpinning all of this is prayer, mentioned by Luke explicitly in the context of Jesus’ baptism (and profusely elsewhere). in Jesus’ life there is a correlation between earnest prayer and the blessing of God.

As we celebrate the baptism of Jesus, we should uplift the centrality of prayer in our relationship with God; uphold the baptismal covenant as a central pillar of our faith; and we should give thanks for the symbolism of the water of baptism connecting us to the water of spiritual life offered through Jesus – whether in the sea, or in a baptismal font.

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