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January 15, 2019

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John baptizes Jesus in the Wilderness

Scripture Luke 3: 1-22

The heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Luke 3:21b-22 NRSV

We have only two sacraments in the Reformed tradition, which is the basis of all Presbyterian denominations. These are baptism and the Lord’s supper. These were particular actions of Jesus Christ during his life among humankind. They are unique to his experience and were life-changing for the followers Christ, especially for his disciples. Our scripture lesson offers us a glimpse into the Jewish cleansing ritual associated with John, described as baptism. This action of devotion to God and repentance took on new meaning in the baptism of Jesus, as described in Luke.

We have many rituals in the church, typically performed as part of the worship service on Sunday. The ordination and installation of Ruling Elders, Deacons, and Ministers of Word and Sacrament trace back to the early church. While these are not a sacraments, they do reflect the ongoing activity of God’s Spirit and sets apart certain persons for ordered ministry for the church of Jesus Christ. They take on additional responsibilities in the life of the church and in ministry for a particular community of faith.

The Reformed traditions hold that that God remains with us at all times. We call this the presence of God’s Spirit. In our scripture, God’s Spirit descended on Jesus, and God identified Jesus as God’s Son. This was the beginning of public recognition of Jesus as the Messiah. From this wonderful event comes our sacrament of baptism which incorporates each of us into the church, supported by everyone in the congregation. While many of us have no direct memory of such an event, having been baptized as infants, we can recall the environment of our homes, our family, and our home congregations that educated and nurtured us in our faith journey through the early years of childhood and into adult life.

As we continue to grow in faith, we should spend time reflecting on baptism, on ministry, on individual service, and on the love of God we find in Jesus Christ. Like Jesus, where will you choose to serve, and where are you called to ministry, as God affirms and claims you for work in the kingdom?

Stan Reid


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