Bulletin: January 13, 2019

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Baptism of the Lord

As we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, we also honor our own baptism as our initiation into the Christian life and community. In the Gospel, the baptism of Jesus, with his immersion and then emergence from the water, points to his later submission to God at his death, and his emergence from the grave at his resurrection. This pattern of death and resurrection is our path too, as followers of Jesus. Throughout life, often in small ways, we learn to surrender our limited and self-centered agendas. This surrender often feels like death. The sacrament of Baptism ritually enacts this pattern to remind us of Jesus’ death and resurrection, so that we too might embrace the deaths and resurrections of our own lives. As Jesus emerged from the water, he encountered his Father and the Holy Spirit. Like Jesus, we can know we are God’s beloved, empowered by the Spirit.


BAPTIZED WITH THE SPIRIT

In today’s Gospel according to Luke, when John the Baptist clarified that he was not the expected Messiah, the Christ, he distinguished his baptism with water from the baptism “with the Holy Spirit and fire” that would be offered by Jesus.

John’s baptism with water signified the surrender of one’s own agenda and the opening of one’s heart to God. The baptism with fire and Spirit describes God’s power entering and transforming the human heart. When Jesus was baptized in water, he publicly displayed his own full commitment to following God’s path for him. When the Spirit descended upon Jesus, he was empowered to begin his work. In effect, Jesus received both kinds of baptism described by John. He would go on to “baptize” those whose hearts were open through his ministry, death, and resurrection. Later, at Pentecost, the new community received a “baptism” of Spirit with tongues of fire.


TRINITY AND BAPTISM

This week’s Gospel not only tells of Jesus’ baptism, but dramatically describes God as the Holy Trinity: Jesus in prayer, the Holy Spirit descending, and the Father’s voice from heaven. The nascent church linked its earliest understanding of God as Trinity to Baptism as the initiation into Christian life and community. New Christians were baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit.


Jesus was proclaimed Beloved by his Father, and empowered by the Holy Spirit to begin his mission. Mission is a sending; to accept a mission is to be sent. After his ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus’ mission continued through the Spirit beginning at Pentecost. The Father sent the Son and Spirit, who together now send the church into the world. Baptism, then, is the sending of the newly baptized to join the Trinity in this mission. We the baptized are empowered to proclaim that all are God’s beloved. Our triune God is already ahead of us in the world, inviting our participation.


Today’s Readings: Is 42:1–4, 6–7 or Is 40:1–5, 9–11; Ps 29:1–2, 3–4, 3, 9–10 or Ps 104:1b–2, 3–4, 24–25, 27–28, 29–30; Acts 10:34–38 or Ti 2:11–14, 3:4–7; Lk 3:15–16, 21–22


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