Church of England Diocese of Exeter East Worlington

A homily for the Baptism of Christ

10 Jan 2021, 10:30 a.m.

The Baptism of Christ

Acts 19:1-7 Mark 1:4-11

You are planning to do something, and several stages are involved in the procedure that you will have to follow. If all goes well the plan will reach a successful conclusion but, and it is a big but, there are many things that need to take place at the right time and in the right way. You set off and bang, bang, bang, all goes smoothly, all stages are completed to time, the end of the project is reached. It has all fallen into place.

If you take a jigsaw and throw all of the pieces up into the air hoping that all will land in just the right positions and that the jigsaw is completed (the sky anyway!) you will have a long wait. You are waiting for the pieces to fall in the right places. There are times when we come across situations like that where, to make life easy, all of the pieces fall into place.

Today, in Mark’s Gospel, we read of the baptism of Jesus. Jesus did not need to be baptised as he was the sinless one, the Son of God. The baptism from John was a baptism of repentance. It was meant for those who were sorry for what they had done wrong and was an expression by them that they would put those sins to one side. This baptism for Jesus was quite unnecessary.

For Jesus the jigsaw pieces were coming together. It was time for him to make a decision. Up until now he had lived at home and done home-based things and tasks. But he must have been aware of other duties that he must undertake. He just had to wait for the right time. Here it was. Here was the time for him to launch out on the mission that was uniquely his. All of the pieces were in the right place. As Shakespeare saw it: "There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;” For Jesus home in Nazareth was peaceful but God had summoned him and he was to obey. In accepting the baptism from John Jesus was identifying himself with the people.

In our own baptism (or as some call it Christening) we are brought into God’s family. We receive the sign of the Cross on our forehead and in so doing we are marked with the identification of that fellowship. From our birth the pieces of the jigsaw are coming together. Moving on to the time of our Confirmation more pieces have gathered. The stages have been put together and we are better able to do God’s will.

In joining these pieces we are set to love God deeper. He wishes our love. He wishes us to acknowledge him. How we do this is up to us. But even a moment set aside each day renews our closeness to him. A few words aimed in his direction maintains that link. We do not need to have a whole set of prayers prepared which will take ages to read. A few words keeps us together. God knows our hearts. He knows our true feelings.

The baptism of Jesus launched him on his mission. It confirmed for him that this was just what God had prepared for him. "Thou art my beloved Son," spoken to him confirmed that his decision was right and that it had God’s approval. The Holy Spirit came upon him as a dove descending. The dove represents gentleness and this is the mark of his mission. He will come as the expected King but he will conquer with gentleness. It will be the conquest of love.

Collect for the Baptism of Christ

Eternal Father,

who at the baptism of Jesus

revealed him to be your Son,

anointing him with the Holy Spirit:

grant to us, who are born again by water and the Spirit,

that we may be faithful to our calling as your adopted children;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.