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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Today’s Reading | Matthew 3:16–17

And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (NRSV)

I will always remember the first time I baptized a child. The parents handed their son to me and I turned too quickly with the baby in my arms. My head started spinning and my balance began to waver and I almost fainted. I recovered without mishap, but it was a really scary moment. For about two years after that, every time I officiated at a baptism, I got weak-kneed. All I could figure was that my weak knees were the result of that first experience.             

There’s something else I’ve noticed about baptisms. They are the most focused time in all of congregational life. All eyes are on the babies or the youth or the adult being baptized. The parents are watching with rapt attention, straining to see. The grandparents are doing the same. The friends who have come to support that adult are paying close attention. The entire congregation is riveted.

This passage of scripture is about far more than cute infant baptisms. John the Baptist calls the religious hypocrites a brood of vipers. He calls for them and us to bear fruit worthy of our repentance (or worthy of our baptisms). What grabs my attention most is Jesus allowing himself to be baptized by another. His vulnerability and humility and humanity bowl me over. Somehow Jesus being baptized himself shows me that we share in Jesus’ baptism.

So whether or not the parents or the congregation can explain theologically what happens during the Sacrament of Baptism, I know something inexplicable happens. I know it because of the way everyone’s eyes are fixed on that one being baptized. I know it because of the tears in the eyes of the parents. I know it because of the sense of collective wholeness and peace that exists for those moments. It is as if we are all hearing God’s voice proclaiming, “You are my beloved son” or “You are my beloved daughter, with whom I am well pleased.” It really is enough to make a person weak-kneed and dizzy.

Dear God, make me dizzy with the knowledge that in baptism you have claimed me and sealed me to show me I belong to you. Amen.

Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care

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