A brief sermon at Qasr al-Yahud, the traditional site of the baptism of Jesus, on the occasion of the baptism of two study tour participants on Friday, 12 June 2015.
The text was Mark’s account of the baptism of Jesus by John (Mark 1:4–11).
As Rodney has already mentioned, this community has already been on a journey. In the process of sharing that journey, a band of strangers has become a company of friends. People on a quest. People on a journey. Today we are sharing a very special moment in the lives of two of our community, Coral and Rudi.
It’s not so much about the water. And it’s not so much about the place, although we can talk about the significance of the Jordan, and the symbolism and the significance of the place. But rather, it’s about intentions, it’s about hopes, and it’s about orientation.
For our two friends, the two candidates for baptism, it’s not primarily about beliefs. And it’s certainly not a claim that they’ve got it all figured out. They’ve got ‘A’ Grades in theology. They have their doctrines all clear and everything set. But it is about identifying with the community which is gathered around the work of God in Jesus Christ.
So it’s about a committed and intentional participation in the community of faith that flows like a river, whose source is Jesus. That community draws on his wisdom, and is inspired by his practice. And so at the heart of our community, at the heart of a community which our two friends are choosing to join today, stands the character, the figure, of Jesus.
It’s also about the community, us as a community, and us as a fragment of the larger Christian community. Around that ancient Jew from Nazareth, there formed a community. And today, two more people, from a land that Jesus had never heard of or dreamt of, choose to join that community and stand in the company of Jesus. And today that community, who we represent, in a sense, sacramentally, embraces these new followers of Jesus. We accept them into the community of Christ. We join the journey with them and we invite them to continue their journey with us.
Today this sacrament is also of course about God. God beyond all names. God beyond all tribes. God beyond all religions. The God whom we believe we glimpse in the person of Jesus Christ. The God who’s ever present in these ancient rocks and who has always been present in the lives of Rudi and Coral. The God who is present in our lives, even if unnamed and unknown. The God who is present in the life of our community, even our short-term travelling community. The God who’s present in the world. The God who’s present in this land and its troubled communities.
In the tradition of the gospel that I just read, at the end of his baptism, Jesus hears the bat kol, which is Hebrew for the voice of heaven, the daughter of heaven … the holy voice. The voice says, You are my son. You are my child. You are my servant. You are my beloved. I’m really happy with you. With you I am well pleased.
Coral, Rudi, may you both hear that voice today in your hearts. And may we all sense it, as well, as we share this moment with them and reflect on our own baptisms and our own calling to be followers of Christ. We are all God’s beloved. We are all the sons and daughters of God. God is well pleased with us. Just as we are. Amen.