Baptism of our Lord
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Breath of God
Breath figures frequently in Scripture. God’s breath or Spirit hovers over the chaos in creation in Genesis. Breath or Spirit enters the nostrils of the created in the story. Breath and Spirit is breathed onto the disciples by Jesus when he appears to them after his resurrection. In the gospel text, as Jesus rises from the waters, the Spirit, the breath of God, descends like a dove. Jesus, having held his breath under the water, rises as a model of death and life for us, breathing in the life of the Spirit. He is a risen and claimed by God as the beloved with whom God is pleased.
Of course, breathing is two things, breathing in and breathing out. You can hold your breath, but there is no way to hold it forever. Consider how this reflects the Spirit’s power in Jesus and then in our baptism. In baptism, the gift is not just one of repentance and forgiveness, but, as the Acts text emphasizes, also involves the Spirit living and acting in the baptized. While it is a gift for our own lives, like the gift of breathing in, it is also encouragement and life, a breathing out of the Spirit into the world. Baptism is both for our own sake and for the world. In our baptism, we breathe in forgiveness and reconciliation and breathe out the Spirit in our life and works. That’s the full life of the baptized disciple.
Gospel: Mark 1:4-11
Mark’s gospel reports the story of Jesus’ baptism with some irony: the one on whom the Spirit descends is himself the one who will baptize others with the Holy Spirit.
4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
9In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”