Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Baptism of Jesus B

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."

9In 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."

This week for the baptism of Jesus, we continue in the gospel according to Mark—the short, direct, energetic account for texters and tweeters.

We're still in the liturgical season of Epiphany. Last week we discussed the "epi" (upon) and "phan" {revealing, revelation) roots of the the word. The feast and the season of epiphany specifically brings us the revelation of Jesus as savior and lord for all the world. On the Day of Epiphany (or the nearest Sunday, as we observed Epiphany last week), we hear about the wise guys, star gazers, astrologers, Zoroastrians, foreigners to Israel (etc.) from the east visiting Jesus. That event has become an icon of God's gracious universalism that in Jesus Christ redeems all people and all creation. We know how a special star guided the magi from their country to Jesus; then we discussed choosing a star word, or a word to guide us through this year, which several of us did.

Today for Jesus' baptism by his cousin John the Baptist, we experience a trinitarian theophany, or revelation of the trinity: the voice of God the Father; the presence of Jesus God the Son; the familiar dove symbol or icon of God the Holy Spirit / Holy Ghost. Mark 1:10 brings us the heavens torn apart with a word that means a rip or rupture that can't be mended. I asked Steve W to read from Mark 15 in his study bible along with the commentary:

37Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. 38And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, "Truly this man was God's Son!"

This "tear, tore, torn" is the same word for an irreparable rupture or break. I explained how important the temple imagery is; Israel built the Jerusalem temple modeled after temples of other religions because they wanted a contained place where God (actually the name of God that in Hebrew Bible theology is God's presence, identity, etc.) could reside and be kept safe. HIstorically, only the high priest had access to the central chamber of the temple, the Holy of Holies, and only one day each year, the Day of Atonement. Tearing or ripping wide apart the temple veil or curtain that separate the holy of holies from the rest of the world revealed the reality of a God of all, God for all, who cannot be limited or contained anywhere. Another revelation of God's universal salvation and redemption of all creation.

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