Sunday 12th January 2020 – Beki Cansdale
At the back of church in wellies, waterproofs, iPad and lapel mic.
Muttering to myself and making noises of checking things off a list. Looking round the space and counting. Off goes my phone very loudly!
I answer – it’s the minister!
I start to walk slowly down the aisle as I talk about all the things I’ve planned for the baptism.
Yes, yes things are almost all prepared for the baptism later.
Why would I be nervous? I know I’ve never seen one before but there’s a first time for everything right.
Yes, I’m dressed very appropriately. Well you did say there was going to be lots of water so I’m all ready.
On that point, I wasn’t sure exactly how much water you wanted so I’ve got a bit extra in case. Yes. The large lorry will be here in about an hour. And I’m just about to set up the swimming pool that should hold all the water. Yeah it was the biggest I could find in Costco.
You did say it was a special day and that there was an element of celebration in it. And I’ve got just the perfect colour theme for the church, bunting, fairy lights, it’s going to be epic.
Because it’s a celebration I’ve also got a cake coming. You said it was a service that everyone was invited to so it’s a BIG cake. What’s a special day without a cake right?
Oh and I know you said that there needed to be candles, which quite frankly I thought was a bit odd given we have a load of water as well, you know fire and water don’t mix, but DON’T WORRY, I’ve got it sorted. I was browsing amazon late the other night and found some lily pads that will float on the water and they’re actually candle holders, how cool is that! So, we’re all sorted for that.
The other thing you said you needed was oil. Again, I wasn’t exactly sure how much oil you might have needed so I just went to the supermarket and got as much as I could. I’m not sure what you’re using it for but it’s there for when you want it.
So that’s the water, candles, oil, cake, all sorted. I sent out invites to the whole town, so everyone’s invited, you did say it was a service that everyone was welcome to!
What do you mean we need to have a chat and you’re coming straight over? You don’t need to do that; I’ve got it all under control! Reverend? Reverend? (they’ve hung up on me).
(phone back in pocket and I address the congregation).
What a baptism service that would have been! A huge pool, fairy lights, a bucket of oil, floating lily pad candle holders.
I’ve not ever seen a baptism service like that, ever really. It certainly wouldn’t have been the type of baptism that Jesus and John would have experience in our gospel reading today.
On the banks of the Jordan river there wouldn’t have been a building full of fairy lights, a paddling pool with floating candles, a bucket of oil or a cake afterwards. Instead it would have been out under the sky, whatever the weather. It might well have been pretty hot, the water might have been cold, mucky, perhaps all the silt has been stirred up by the river. There might have been a load of people stood on the banks, watching, intensely curious. There wouldn’t have been any microphones or a PA system so maybe they would have had to shout so that people could hear them.
As Jesus approached, John couldn’t quite believe it, especially when Jesus asked John to baptise him. He stammered his reasons said, “no but I’m not worthy, I’m not good enough, I should be asking you to baptise me!”. But Jesus asked, and Jesus insisted.
This week I’ve been pondering on that, why did Jesus need to get baptised? He was perfect, he did no wrong, he was fully God and fully human. It’s also got me wondering about what baptism is all about.
As I’ve been thinking, the conclusion I’ve come to is that baptism is about naming. It’s about being named by God and for God.
Our names are important now, they tell you something about a person. Sometimes we get nicknames.
When I was doing my silver Duke of Edinburgh award, we did a three day walk. Over those three days I got nicknamed ‘Satnav’. That tells you something about me, how I was over those three days and how I interacted with my group. Names are important. Names were also really important in Jesus’ time as well. A name didn’t only mean something, but it could also tell a person what family you’re from. And if your family name was known, then that could tell a person lots more about you. They may know your relatives; they may know stories about you. They may know what sort of jobs run in your family. In an instant, your name can tell someone a lot about you.
Jesus’ name was no exception, his name was and still is important.
When Jesus stood in that murky water, as he was dunked underneath and brought back out again something incredible happened. The clouds moved, the sky seemed to split open almost and a dove suddenly appeared. The already stunned crowd then heard a voice, as if it were coming down from the sky, from the heavens.
“This is my Son……pause… with whom I am well pleased”.
“This is my son”.
In that moment, Jesus was named, he was called Son of God. His identity was fully acknowledged. God spoke as the Holy Spirit came down onto Jesus.
I believe that baptism is the same today, it’s a naming, it’s a calling. I believe that as we are baptised, God says “You are my son, you are my daughter, you are my child”.
In baptism we are identified as part of God’s family, we are identified as a child of God. We are named.
And the really important thing is that baptism and this naming has absolutely nothing to do with what we’ve done. It’s not about getting it right, it’s not about following a list of rules, it’s not about earning our place. Baptism is about receiving a gift that is freely given.
So, what do we do with that? How do we live as children of God in our day to day lives? What does it mean for you and for me to be baptised? Whether you’ve been baptised or whether you still feel like you’re figuring things out like our character who had those interesting baptism ideas. Regardless of where you are… What does it mean for us to be named by God?
Jesus was baptised and named at the start of his ministry, before he had done anything. He then went off on this crazy mad adventure with God. We are called to join in with Jesus’ crazy mad adventure, to journey with him, whatever that looks like for each of us.
How then do we live as if we are named by God? What does it look like to live in that truth? How do we allow our baptism and our faith to affect our day-to-day lives?
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