West Point Grey United Church
Jan 07, 2024


Mark 1:4–11

We have celebrated the birth of Christ. We have observed the dedication of Christ in the Temple when he was six weeks old. We know very little about the life of Jesus during the next 30 years. Now we arrive at the Season of Epiphany when God’s light shines on the work and ministry of Jesus. But before that really begins, a very important event.

We are down by the Jordan River where great throngs of people have come to hear an itinerant preacher whose name was John. He wore a coarse camel’s hair tunic with a leather belt around his waist. He spoke with a powerful voice challenging people to repent for their sins and follow faithfully God’s purpose for them. The people made their way to where John was and allowed him to “bury” their old ways under the water in baptism, then raise them again to a better life. He was so impressive and forceful that some people asked if he was the Messiah. He replied clearly that he was not, but after him would come one more powerful whose sandals John was not worthy to untie.

Then one day it happened. Jesus asked John to baptize him, and at first John said “No”, that he was not worthy to do this. Finally John agreed, and Jesus was baptized. As he was coming out of the water a voice came from heaven “You are my son the beloved; with you I am well pleased.” So the first half of the message of Jesus’  baptism, and our own, is that “we are loved”.

The second strong message of Jesus’ baptism is “we have work to do.” For Jesus, his baptism was really a commissioning service. And when someone is baptized in our time, it marks the beginning of service in the name of Jesus Christ.

When we are baptized we, (or our parents on our behalf), make promises to be faithful disciples of Jesus. The congregation members also make promises to “guide and nurture, by word and deed, with love and prayer” those who have been baptized as they take up their responsibilities. So baptism means that we are loved, and that we have work to do, we have a purpose. 

The baptism of Jesus is not recognized as a holiday or special event in most of our churches, but perhaps it should be. It was the experience that started the ministry of Jesus. All that happened during the next two or three years was a living out of God’s purpose for his life. When we are baptized or confirm our faith as adults, we are given a new sense of purpose and the promise of God’s love and strength to equip us for our responsibilities. With renewed confidence we can move forward on our life and faith journey.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson is widely known as a powerful speaker. He especially loves speaking in school auditoriums to students from diverse backgrounds who have low self-esteem and long for hope of a better future. Some years ago he began concluding his speeches by having the students respond “I am somebody” to questions he would ask. Over and over again they would yell “I am somebody” and they would leave with a sense of worth that, for many, was brand new.

The message of your baptism and my baptism is like that; in God’s grand scheme of things, “I am somebody” …..” you are somebody”.       Amen.