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The Chalice
Friday, January 06 2023


And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.

This Sunday, our church celebrates The Baptism of our Lord. Lectionary-wise, this is kind of a strange jump for us; the last time we checked in with our infant Lord, we had just celebrated the eight days following his birth. So we had the infant birth, circumcision, the three wise men who brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And so, naturally (that was sarcasm), we jump over a quarter of a century later to Jesus, in his mid/late twenties. I must say, to me, this really makes no sense. 

Many, if not most of us, were baptized as infants. A majority of us in church this Sunday will not remember the baptismal promises that were made, as they were made on our behalf by god parents. As some of you may know, my sister gave birth to a beautiful baby girl just days before Christmas and as a Christmas gift, I was gifted a Christmas ornament with a picture of the movie title screen from The Godfather. As I mentally pieced together my gift, I was moved to tears and in awe of my gift, as this brought me so much joy and bliss. As I look at my new niece Hazel, I am reminded of the importance of bringing this child into the faith.

Many of us take for granted the gift of baptism in our lives. Some view baptism as membership into the Christian club. It’s how we sign up for donation envelopes and get onto the Parish Register where we can receive weekly emails, like this one. Some are afraid of baptism for this reality - and I proclaim: this is not the meaning of baptism! 

Baptism is one of two sacraments handed down to us through scripture, by Jesus. The other sacramental rites in our Book of Common Prayer are important: Reconciliation, Confirmation, Marriage, Anointing of the Sick, Ordination; but the two that Jesus teaches us firsthand by his actions are Holy Communion (which we celebrate each Sunday), and Baptism (that we hear in our scriptures this Sunday morning). 

Jesus showed us by his example at the River Jordan with his cousin, John, that this was a new rite that in fact initiated Jesus’ public ministry. It was the proclamation in thought, and word, and deed, that Jesus belonged to God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth. We may explain away the connection with baptism to Jesus’ birth narrative because of our modern-day practice of baptizing infants. Another way to look at baptism is within the parallel of how a child looks at the world with awe and openness, is in fact the way God wants to have a relationship with us - with the faith and openness of a child.   

Children are quite remarkable in that way - they trust what is told to them. Why do they have any reason to doubt? I challenge us all this week, as we prepare to hear about baptism this Sunday, may we have the faith of the littlest members of our community, whom Deacon Claire gives our dismissal with on Sundays at our 10:00 am Eucharist. As adults, it is challenging to imagine the heavens opening up and the Holy Spirit descending like a dove. I believe children can see this much more clearly with their imaginations and unconditional trust in the Divine, as God has known them since God knit them together in their mothers’ womb. 

God calls us to new life in Him, through Jesus Christ and through baptism. Do we have the same openness to relationship with Jesus as adults, that infants do for new life? How do we get back to having the faith of children? How do we dwell there? How can we proclaim in thought and word and deed that we belong to God?

Your sibling in Christ,

Fr. James

Posted by: The Rev. James E. Reiss AT 01:35 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
St. John's Episcopal Church
12 Prospect St. | Huntington, NY 11743 | PH: (631) 427-1752
Sunday Services at 8 AM and 10 AM
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