Sunday being the first Sunday after Epiphany, we remember Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River. It marks the beginning of his ministry.
As John is baptizing others, Jesus arrives to be baptized as well. Luke doesn’t shed many details on the story. What he does share gets right to the heart of the story. As Jesus emerges from the waters, the Holy Spirit descends on him. Then the voice of God speaks from heaven. “YOU ARE MY SON.”
This baptism launches Jesus’ Spirit-filled mission. What begins as an unassuming baptism in the river ends with power and affirmation.
Baptism is a tremendous gift. Within the sacrament, is the promise that, we have been claimed by God. We belong to Him. It’s a promise for a lifetime.
For most of us, we received this tremendous promise when we were younger and perhaps in arms. We may have mementos from the day: a grainy black and white photo (if you are my age) and a certificate stuffed in a drawer affirming that the act took place.
We might not remember our own baptism, but we’ve witnessed many. Every time we see one, it takes us back to the same waters where we were claimed. Baptism is a promise for a lifetime. It never ceases. The steadfast love of God is ours and will not let us go.
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you.” In baptism, our fear has been removed. Through baptism, we have died in Christ. Christ was raised from the dead; we have entered into his new life. We are born anew. We have emerged from the waters of baptism within Christ’s redeeming resurrection. Christ’s redemption and new life have claimed us. In his redemption there is no fear. For the perfect love of Christ casts out all fear.
Baptism is personal. In our baptisms, we are called individually, by name.
Life is a journey. That journey will include challenges and sorrow. It’s not if, it’s when. Tragedy and trial await us all. But God has promised to walk with us every step of the way. We take with us the deep knowledge that we are not alone. The one who calls us by name, the One who redeemed us, is ever near. Knowing this gives us a lasting endurance.
As we pass through the waters of life’s trials, as the troubled waters threaten to wash us away, we remember the promise we have received. In this promise, we remember there are other waters, holy waters. In them we were claimed by the Almighty for all eternity. Nothing shall be able to snatch us from the hand of God!