Scripture for the week (Sunday after Epiphany; Baptism of Christ):
Genesis 1:1-5; Psalm 29; Acts 19:1-7; Mark 1:4-11
Conducting baptism in a river (or the sea, or the ocean), which I have done but once (so far), can be an awe-inspiring experience, connecting the life-blood of the planet to the spiritual life-blood offered by God through Jesus, the Christ.
There is also a wildness to be experienced through baptism in a wild place. And baptism is a wild thing.
The baptism of Jesus, celebrated today, is very wild: in a river, at a remote place, with the heavens not just being opened, but (in Mark’s words) torn apart, using the same word as that describing the temple curtain at the crucifixion. This is a new thing that God did – and still does – through his Son.
As with all of us, Jesus was given an identity and a mission at his baptism, and the mission drove him further into the wilderness to wrestle with the forces of evil, and then to confront suffering, chaos, and despair in the world around him.
Like Jesus, our baptisms affirm the new relationship between God and humankind, a new relationship that offers comfort for those whom the world neglects or abuses; yet with the comfort comes risk and danger.
This same new relationship applies to each one of us, marked with an identity that is also a mission: “Christ’s own for ever.” Like that of Jesus, our mission may well involve risk and danger, because the water of baptism, whether in a font, a river, a sea, or an ocean, will not be tamed. It takes us into a wild ride of God’s justice, passion, and mercy.
That is what we get as a reward for having the wild water of baptism poured over us!