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baptism-of-JesusOne of my seminary classmates told me of a nice tradition his religious community maintained. Each priest had his own book, The Rite of Baptism of Children, and written on the front inside cover was the name of the priest and the first child that he baptized. It was their way of remembering the ministry to which they were called and that they were always called in service of others. The simple notation in the Rite book was the beginning of two stories: a story of vocation and a story of Christian beginning. Continue reading

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Baptism of the Lord: final thought

baptism-of-JesusThe Theology of History. It is interesting to note that Luke relates no encounter between Jesus and John. In fact, before we are told about Jesus’ baptism, we are informed that John has been put in prison! A traditional way of understanding this order of events is that Luke (the rhetorical historian) divides history into three separate and distinct eras. The first is the time of the prophets, which includes John the Baptist. That era ends with the imprisonment of John. John will no longer be in the picture. After that, the time of Jesus begins with a statement in our text about: (1) the opening of the heaven, (2) the coming down of the Holy Spirit in a visible form (dove); and (3) heavenly speech. This era of Jesus ends with his ascension — related only in Luke & Acts. Jesus will no longer be in the picture. After that, the time of the Holy Spirit (or the Church) begins with a statement in Acts 2:1-4 about (1) something coming “from heaven,” (2) the coming down of the Holy Spirit in a visible form (tongues of fire), and (3) heavenly speech. Continue reading

Baptism of the Lord: Father

baptism-of-JesusA Voice From Heaven. The voice in Luke, as in Mark, speaks directly to Jesus. We overhear the words. In Matthew’s account of the baptism and all three accounts of the transfiguration, the voice speaks to those around Jesus: “This is my son….”

What does it mean to be the “Son of God?” Luke provides answers to this in the larger context. The baptism in Luke is followed by a genealogy which ends with “son of God.” This is followed by the temptation story where the devil tries to help Jesus get a “better” understanding. Twice he states: “If you are the Son of God” (4:3, 9). Continue reading

Baptism of the Lord: Spirit

baptism-of-Jesus“the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove”

Only Luke includes the phrase “in bodily form”. Jensen (Preaching Luke’s Gospel) makes the point that “Bodily descent has the character of permanence. The Spirit not only descended upon Jesus; the Spirit of God came in bodily form and it will remain upon Jesus.” He makes a contrast between Jesus and Israel’s “charismatic judges” on whom the Spirit of God descended temporarily. Continue reading

Baptism of the Lord: gathered

baptism-of-Jesus15 Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire……. 21 After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Continue reading

Baptism of the Lord: context

baptism-of-JesusIn our celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, we draw an excerpt from the Gospel of Luke (3:15-16, 21-22) which describes, in minimal terms, the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.

15 Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire……. 21 After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Continue reading

Home and Belonging

FB-PostWe post things on Facebook once or twice a week – maybe a 30 or so folks visit each post, some percentage of them “like” the post, and perhaps the post add a few “friends.” This Thursday we posted a simple item on the parish Facebook page letting people know there will be a tour of our beautiful church today at 1:15 pm. But this post about the tour of the church has gone somewhat viral. By early Saturday evening more than 8,300 people have viewed the post, several hundred “liked” it, and a whole bunch of people became “friends!” Holy cow! Holy guacamole! People like us! We have friends! This affirms everything we have tried to do here at the parish! …. ahhh… well….. let’s not get too breathless about it all. I don’t think all 8,300 hundred people are coming for the tour. Still, it’s good to know people find the church building beautiful. But I wish they would and they could all have the feeling of the one person who wrote: “Absolutely love this community. Like coming home every time I step through those doors.” That is what I would like to have people experience when come through those doors – people who meet them, welcome them, to fulfill what is perhaps the deepest of human desires: belonging – knowing that you are home. Continue reading

A Covenant of the People

Baptism-JesusTwo Sundays ago, on the Feast of the Holy Family,  we listened to some of the best advise about how to become a holy family. St. Paul wrote in the Letter to the Colossians: “Put on,… heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another…And over all these put on love” (Col 3:12-13).  It raises the question to all of us, in whatever form our families take, are we practicing those virtues in order to become a holy family?  Would someone on the outside peer into our families and see evidence of those virtues? Continue reading

The Baptism of Jesus – Why?

Part of the ancient Madaba Map showing two possible locations of Jesus’ baptism

Part of the ancient Madaba Map showing two possible locations of Jesus’ baptism

Did you ever wonder why Jesus was baptized? This event is recorded in the Canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In John 1:29-33, rather than a direct narrative, John the Baptist bears witness to the episode. Here is a part of the Lucan narrative (Luke 3:21–22):21 After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Continue reading