This first word of 2021 is a word of powerful beginnings and striking images. It is a new year, and with it, we in the Christian community observe the Baptism of Jesus. Scriptural reflection offers the image of light and the narrative of the creation of the entire cosmos through the words in Genesis. There the contrasts are offered: light and darkness, day and night. Chaos and formlessness are swept away by the wind, or ru’ah of the Holy One as it moves across the waters of the new creation.
In the pithy account from the Gospel of Mark, John Baptizer appears offering a cleansing through repentance and forgiveness in the wilderness. John is a striking image, proclaiming loudly the impending arrival of one who is greater than he, one who comes as anointed, with the gift of the Holy Spirit, to provide sanctuary and salvation for the community.
Into this steps Jesus, and Jesus is blessed with the words of the psalmist, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
These spiritual and scriptural offerings seem so distant from the day to day reality of the world around us. Yet, there are many current images of the contrast between light and darkness, day and night. The striking differences between those in society that respond well to the pandemic guidelines, versus those that ignore science and promote anti-masking come to mind. The current chaos in the transfer of power in the United States comes to mind as well. It seems so easy for us within society to be caught up in the fear and anxiety that is offered through the instability of health and economy and governance.
Fear and anxiety are not what we are called to engender as followers of the Holy One. We are called to sweep into the world with the blessing of new life, new possibility. We are called to offer generosity, care, repentance, and a new way of living – in short, salvation – through the Holy One.
This is the message that I hear in the Baptism of Jesus this week. This is the message I have also heard in the courage and generosity, determination and love of so many as they combat fear and anxiety each moment.
This is the message that I have also heard in the ministry and witness of Roland and Ruby Clarke, long-time faithful parishioners here at the Ascension. Through their vision of their baptismal ministry, through their love and generosity they have enabled the resources of the new audio-visual streaming equipment that brings Christ’s message of hope and love into peoples’ homes, to their computers, to their phones, so that fear and anxiety may be quelled through the love and covenant of the Holy One.
‘You are my children, Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
Let us strive to walk with Jesus, with Roland and Ruby, and with all who choose love courage and hope.