Baptized for Mission

April 6, 2022

Photo Unsplash

Kevin Adams, Senior Pastor at Granite Springs Church, Lincoln, CA

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.  As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.  And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”   –Matthew 3:13-17

Following Gospel footsteps, early church leaders taught that Jesus’ baptism identified him with forgiven sinners and launched his ministry. It was, to put it in Old Testament terms, his anointing. Jesus publicly recognized and accepted his special relationship with God and so began his public ministry.

Baptism, not Christmas, starts the story. Baptism is the set of glasses through which we can see all of Jesus’ life. His other miracles, his teaching, his friendships, his loving or tough words to broken people, his death on the cross—all are a working out of his baptism. “When the New Testament strikes the note of baptism,” writes [theologian Dale] Bruner, “all the overtones of the great chord of God’s salvation can be heard.”

Our baptisms too are anointings. Each baptism, in its specific place and time, marks the beginning of a life of baptism. Our entire postbaptismal life is lived under water. Every decision, each career move, and each sentence we speak is an overflow of baptismal waters, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In his baptism Jesus links himself to us, and in our baptisms we get linked to him. In faith we work with the Spirit toward humble obedience, to multiply life, to live our anointed calling, just as Jesus did.

That’s why, former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams notes, we expect to find the baptized living out their ordination

“in the neighbourhood of chaos … near to those places where humanity is most at risk, where humanity is most disordered, disfigured and needy.” Williams has witnessed thousands of Christians living their baptisms in ordinary or desperate places. “If being baptized is being led to where Jesus is,” he says, “then being baptized is being led towards the chaos and the neediness of a humanity that has forgotten its own destiny.”

Barbara Brown Taylor remembers reading about two paramedics who, on seeing the chaos and misery left by a flood in Honduras, immediately left their home to help. They had no Spanish-language skills. They had no place to stay. They had no illusions. They knew they would be pulling dead bodies out of the mud. But they “thought it might help the families to give them back their loved ones for burial.” They were simply living their baptismal ordination.

 (Excerpts adapted from Living Under Water: Baptism as a Way of Life. Pg. 88-90, 92.  Released 2022. Used with permission)

Prayer.  Father in Heaven, Help us to receive your baptism love again today. And having received it, give us courage to live its anointing, courageous Spirit-led call to mission.  In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.