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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, January 8, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Mark 1:9–13

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And 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. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. (NRSV)

Reflection
I was baptized as a second grader in the shallow end of a suburban recreation center swimming pool, some time after dark, all bedecked in white shorts and polo shirt to match my parents and my brother. We went under in turn. We rose again with our eyes clenched tight, lips sputtering, shivering and peeling the polos off our skin.

The details of Jesus’ baptism are vivid: the holy river, the heavens rent, the dove dive-bombing the scene, the voice from those same rent heavens (to say nothing of the baptizer, his diet, or his wardrobe). It does not appear to my mind as a placid portrait, but a rough-edged rendering of confusion and maybe a little terror.

And then it gets worse. The same Spirit that appeared as a dove now collars Jesus and drags him to the desert to be tempted by God-knows-what and to live like an animal. This is the beginning of the good news about Jesus?

The days that followed my baptism were wild too. The preacher screamed. The people rolled and babbled and shrieked, and the church tore itself apart before I reached the fifth grade. It would be years before I sought the church again.

Yet when I did, my baptism into that chaotic church came with me. It was still my baptism. I didn’t start over with God.

When Jesus emerges from among the angels and the beasts, he’s ready to go to work. The baptizing’s been done and won’t need repeating.

Even if the venue doesn’t suggest divinity and the days that follow feel more fraught than holy, God is at work in baptism—and all our days after.

Prayer
God of water and Spirit, all praise be to you for the waters of baptism in which you claim us and make us one with your church. In all our days and through all our trials, form us for your purpose as your baptized people. Amen.

Written by Rocky Supinger, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry


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