We strive to know Christ more deeply and bring others to his redeeming grace.
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was
baptized by John in the Jordan. And 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. And a voice came from heaven,
“You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Mark 1:10-11, NRSV.
This year, year B in our Sunday Revised Common Lectionary,
we will be focusing on the Gospel According to Mark.
Mark begins his gospel not with an infancy narrative, but with
Jesus' baptism, which tells us something of the importance
that Mark places on it. This passage has led some theologians
to posit that Jesus’ commission as the Messiah and son of God began not at his birth, but at his baptism. Many would argue that he was God from the get-go, that is at birth. Others might say that both are true, that Jesus was both Lord at birth and given a special blessing and commission at baptism to help him live into his full identity.
This begs the question for us and our baptisms. Do we become children of God at our birth or at our baptism? The way I see it, the answer to that question is, “Yes.” Wait, you may be saying, that wasn’t a yes or no question. It required an answer to the exclusion of the other. Welcome to Anglicanism! The English church is uniquely open to a certain amount of comprehensiveness of opinion as we value unity in Christ over uniformity. So, how can both be true? Well, let's start at the catechism. Sacraments are "outward and physical signs of an inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace." (BCP p 857). On page 858 it says that “In baptism we are adopted as God's children and made members of the Church.” This is where, for me, there is wiggle room. I see baptism as the adoption ceremony, marking the inward and spiritual grace that is already there. It links up the person's will with their desire to be a child of God AND it also communicates
grace to fulfill the charge to continuously becoming a child of God. We are, in my opinion--as bearers of the divine image--born into the family of God and in baptism marked as Christ’s own forever.
Baptism is where Jesus comes in. Baptism
communicates a new life for the believer. C.S. Lewis calls the two ways of living Bios and Zoe. Jesus makes a more complete link between divine life (Zoe) and ordinary human life (Bios) and makes us better able to walk in the divine life and share the Zoe, of the Trinity. In baptism we agree to live Zoe, with God’s help. Zoe is the word for life in the New Testament and it is contrasted with Bios. Bios is the life that is constantly fearing death, that is just trying to stay alive and will claw and tear at anything that will get in its way. Animals are generally living Bios existences. This is not to say that Bios is bad, but rather a gift that has helped us survive, to procreate, to find food and to fear danger. Bios alone isn't real life however. It isn’t our best life. Remember Jesus said that we can't live by bread alone. (We can't really live simply by following our drives for hunger, reproduction, safety, etc.) There is another way to live. Real living is another level, free from our fear of death, where we are free to love. I look forward to living out the season after Epiphany with you all when we will remember with Jesus’ baptism, our own and what it means to live lives free from the fear of death.
May God bless you and keep you in this season of light,
Art by B. Keeler.
MESSAGE FROM OUR VICAR
ST. BEDE EPISCOPAL CHURCH
1609 Elm St. Forest Grove, OR