Reflection Sunday 5 December 2021
The Way of the Lord
This morning we are going to baptise a child into the family and faith of Christ and in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Today is a good day to have a baptism during our worship service because the Gospel reading is about baptism. What is baptism? Why do we baptise people?
In my preparation for today, I read that there are a number of types of baptism mentioned in the New Testament: among them are the baptism of John, the baptism of Jesus, the baptism of Moses, baptism in water, baptism in fire, baptism in the Holy Spirit, baptism in suffering and baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Jewish people at the time of Jesus were very familiar with baptism. People would symbolically wash away their sins in a pool or river in preparation for the coming Messiah. Luke tells us that the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, "The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'"
The word that came to John from God when he was out in the wilderness was one of urgency: the Messianic age was at hand, it was here, get ready, be ready, prepare the way of the Lord. Baptism was a public sign for all to see, it was an enacted message, one in which one participated but which also spoke to others, it was a way of communicating that something required the response of all the people. The difference between when John was baptising and when Jesus’ disciples began baptising was that John was saying get ready the Messiah is coming, whereas the disciples said the Messiah has come, change your way, join the way of Jesus Christ.
Baptism today is also a public event, an enacted message in which we participate and which acts as a witness to others. It is saying that we and our children renounce the ways of the world, ways that are destructive and destroy, that hurt and harm, and we embrace the grace of God who welcomes us all in love, who freely forgives, and who is changing all things, whose way is a way of peace and justice.
The early Christians described themselves as followers of the way, the way of Jesus, of walking in the way: in the way of truth and the way of life and the way of love and of forgiveness. In Jesus, God has revealed to us the way of life, a light to our path, a companion on the road.
Today, we will baptise ... in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. It is not a magic formula, that transfers us instantaneously from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light but it is a wonderful description of the God whose way we are on: God calls us his/her child, Jesus calls us his sister or brother and the Holy Spirit comes to live within us. We no longer live but the fulness of God lives within us.
Minister of Campsie Earlwood Clemton Park Uniting Church Congregation