Hello Friends, I hope your re-entry post-Christmas hasn’t been too bumpy. Perhaps it is because of the frenzied time of Christmas that the RCL returns every year to John the Baptist text. Hopefully Mark 1:4-11 can be familiar but not tired as you look forward. Although not a Christian concept, the idea of revolutionary baptism and renewing oneself fits right in with the celebration of a New Year.
I am finding myself thinking very deeply about the fact that the way we try to be revolutionary is to create resolutions. That change is not about sudden renewal (although that can give us a great jumpstart) but rather the beginnings of changing our practices. Change is very difficult for us humans, and its important to have achievable goals and touchstones along the way, otherwise we can easily become disheartened.
Here is John the baptizer, providing one touchstone along the path to Jesus Christ, here is not the endgoal, but rather a way to mark the beginning of the journey. It is so important to recall and renew our own baptism. Because it is a journey, for each of us.
Star Wars Porg image Created by artist @snowbringer on twitter
On Christmas Eve morning, I was able to baptize a member’s grandchild. I am sure I will in some way harken to the baptism in my sermon this week. I will definitely remind the children how they “helped” during the baptism. Our practice is for the children to get water from the fount after the baptism and splash as many adults as possible (don’t worry its a far journey so adults are lucky if they get sprinkled) to remind/recall their baptism.
Is Christmas a time of baptism? We definitely recall and celebrate Communion, and I know others such as myself schedule baptism on or near Christmas Eve, but it makes me wonder if there is more we can do. Do you find baptism to be an extension of the Christmas Season? Should it be? Is baptism a part of Epiphany? Is it a moment of renewal? Is it revolutionary? Where does your theology of baptism fit into this particular time in the liturgical calendar?
Also, if baptism is the touchstone to starting to form Christian habits, how might we support the discipline that is Christianity? I, myself am not good at being really strict with those who practice Christianity. I would like for it to flow naturally, I would like for you to find ways to fit Christianity into your life in complementary ways. I doubt John the Baptist would approve of this kind of easygoing leadership. I do proclaim baptism, and I do proclaim the forgiveness of sins, but I am not so good at telling people to “repent.” Things to think about as I consider resolutions and the new year, and baptism.
I think Genesis 1 could fit well with some of these thoughts on Mark. God creates, God creates by first ordering the world, then forming habits (day and night) and then being able to renew God’s work on a regular basis. The poet in me yearns for the New Year to be about creativity, and for captism and the renewal of baptism to be equally creative.
Psalm 29 is about prioritizing God in a way that can be a significant formation of the Christian Discipline. What strikes me about this passage is that it is so celebratory. We humans think of discipline as everyday and the same, but maybe its more joyful and creative than we give it credit. I know that, for me, sermonwriting is an art. There is a lot of discipline involved, and the more I practice and the more effort I put forward, the more likely it is to succeed, but there is no guarantee, and some of the sermon’s success is based on my culmulative work rather than the work I’ve done for the week, and some of the sermon’s success is dependent on the state of my own self, body and soul, which I have some control over but not others. If I think of praising God as a similar artistic endeavor to sermonwriting–i.e. a discipline without guarantees, It changes it for me. How do you practice your praise of God? How do you practice your arts? Is it similar or different?
Acts 19 text doesn’t do a lot for me this week, maybe because it is not as familiar to me as all the rest of the texts. I am interested in the idea that some people are pre-baptized here, so to speak. I recently got the opportunity to bless a 7 day old baby from Nigeria, because in their tribe they do an official blessing (tho not a baptism) right away. It was an interesting way to split the difference. I wonder if others have had pre-baptismal experiences that speak to them.
Where ever you are heading this week, comment and let us know! Are the texts speaking to you? Are you feeling a little dried out? Are there ways for you to renew your baptism this week? Let us know by joining the conversation below.
Katy Stenta is a solo pastor at a tiny church that is bigger on the inside in Albany, NY for over seven years. When she is not dreaming up projects and ideas, some of which creep into the church, she plays with her three boys-boys or goes and visits her husband at the library, while he works, to read.
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