The Baptism of Christ 8.1.12 The Ministry of Pointing

2 01 2012

The Baptism of Christ 8th January 2012

The Ministry of Pointing

Starting back after a break – even a short break – is difficult enough.  But to find that the  gospel passage for the sermon is the same as one on which you preached just a few weeks ago makes it no easier. I am tempted just to say ‘see the Sermon Starter for Advent 2’.  (And you might want to say ‘do you remember that sermon on December 4th? Well – same again. Amen?)

But we would both be wrong.  The gospel passages are not quite identical.  Then we had Mark 1.1-8. Today it is Mark 1. 4-11. Verses 9-11 are new. And in them we read of the baptism of Jesus.

Here is the passage. Some thoughts and questions follow.

Mark 1.4-11
4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And 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. 6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He 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. 8I 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. 10And 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. 11And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’

Starters

1. Beginning with verse 4 rather than verse 1 makes the passage direct and dramatic. John is called ‘the baptizer’ and is seen to be proclaiming.  He is inviting people to repent, get washed and be forgiven. Oddly the world seems to respond. I say ‘oddly’, but do you agree?  It seems to me extraordinary that John should have the authority and credibility to evoke this sort of response. I can’t think of any possible parallel today. Can you? If not, how can you get people to imagine such a scene?

2. From his platform of great authority and influence John takes his proclamation further.  Yes, he has something very big to offer – baptism for repentance and forgiveness.  Nothing to be sneezed at there.  And he is articulate about it.  But there is more – yet about the more he has rather less to say. John does not have the words to talk about Jesus. And so he moves on from the ministry of baptizing to the ministry of pointing. (The TV series Rev. reminded me of the importance of the ministry of pointing. If you like, you can read my reflections on that here: http://stephencherry.wordpress.com/2011/12/20/grace-and-truth-in-rev/ )  Two questions: Do you have the words to do justice to Jesus? If not, how is your ministry of pointing these days?

3.Do you find it curious that verses 10 and 11  give us an insight into what Jesus saw and heard?  Personally, I can’t see a lot of sense in asking the ‘but how do we know?’ question about this.  Rather, I’d ask something like this:  ‘what might we see if heaven were open to us?’ Or ‘what might we hear and feel if we heard the words ‘you are my beloved and I am very pleased with you’?

4.  Going back to ‘Rev.’  What did you make of Colin’s baptism at the end of episode 2 of series 2?

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