Proclaiming the call
Text study on Mark 1:4-11 Lectionary texts for the Baptism of Our Lord, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012
We are in the year of Mark, and Mark is different from the other Gospels. Mark has everything happening right now. In Mark we hit the ground running.
In the Gospel of Luke we have the wonderful stories of angels and births and a young boy. Mary and Elizabeth are called and bring hope into this world with song and poetry.
Luke gives us shepherds out in their fields and the baby in a manger because there was no room in the inn.
With Luke we have Anna and Simeon waiting at the temple for the consolation of Israel. In Luke we also have the 12-year-old Jesus teaching theology in the temple.
In Matthew scripture is fulfilled.
The genealogy ties Jesus back to father Abraham. Joseph gets his due as a righteous man and the magi come from faraway lands to worship the new King of the Jews.
It is also in Matthew that we get the great escape of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus to fulfill the scriptures, and Herod’s brutal reaction to the perceived threat to his power.
In John’s Gospel, John seems to be several steps ahead of the scientist’s at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider where time and space are simply dimensions of a God-created universe beyond our comprehension.
Mark, however, begins differently. In Mark there are no birth stories, no little babies or admiring shepherds or magi from lands afar.
In Mark it is time to get to work.
Jesus appears at the river’s edge and is baptized by John. As he comes up out of the water the heavens are ripped apart as a voice claims Jesus as the Son who is loved from above and the Spirit descends like a dove.
If we would hang around for a couple more verses we would see that same Spirit drives Jesus out into the wilderness for a time of testing and then back to the world again to call the disciples. There is no waiting around in Mark. Everything unfolds before us with immediate urgency and the power of dynamite.
John the Baptist
In Mark’s Gospel we start right off with John the Baptist.
John’s diet and clothes tie him to the prophets of old trying to goad the children of God into living as the children of God.
John’s baptismal ministry here in the wilderness, so far from the temple, is a break with the systems and structures that support the status quo of power-politics and religion working hand in hand.
Jesus’ baptism is an ushering in of something new.
It is a newness that embraces the history of God’s love for a people called "good" at creation.
It is a newness that understands the temptations of this world that all too often try to wield together power and religion for the benefit of the few.
And it is a newness that recognizes that God is loose in this world and the heavens that have been ripped apart will never totally come together again.
This is the transition point from what was to what will be.
In our baptism, we follow in this new tradition. Our baptism is into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It is a uniting of our lives and our ministries in this world with the ministry of Jesus.
We are called to be the hands, feet, heart, soul and love active in this world for Jesus.
There are temptations along the way. There are the temptations to abdicate our calling to a few who will speak for God while we go about our business and only call on God when we feel we need that magic vending machine in the sky.
There are the temptations to meld God’s promises to the power structures of this world and to shut out the voices of others who experience the love of God in ways that are not our own.
There is the temptation to try to put God back up into heaven where we can pay homage without being bothered too much in this world of ours.
But God is loose in the world.
In our baptism we are the ones called to be the Jesus the world sees and responds to.
In our baptism, we too receive the words; this is my son, my daughter whom I love and with whom I am well pleased.
In our baptism we are the ones the Spirit drives back into the world to be the hands and feet and love of Christ active in this world.
So as you go into your world this day, let that love of Christ shine through you, and know that you are never alone. God is on the loose and is active in you and in the neighbor you serve this day.
• How have you been the hands and feet and love of Christ active in the world?
• Have you been tempted to keep God in heaven and away from the world?
Dan Bollerud is the pastor of Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church an ELCA congregation in Anchorage, Alaska. He attended Wartburg Theological Seminary.
You might also like to read:
The challenge (and promise) of baptism
A special baptism
Blindness and baptism