by Sue Westhorp
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‘And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased”’ (Mark 1:11).
Today, we hear from the Gospel of Mark, the gospel that doesn’t include any stories of Jesus’ background, family or birth – there are no shepherds, angels or wise men. Instead, we are taken straight to the announcement and confirmation of who Jesus really is. God himself says, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved. With you, I am well pleased’. So, the very first thing that Mark does is to tell us exactly who Jesus is. For Mark, this is the starting point of the gospel, the very first thing that matters.
You know, one of the things that I love about this event out in the Jordan River is what God does not say. God doesn’t say, ‘I’m well pleased with Jesus because he has proved to me that he deserves it – he has quiet time with me each night, he always reads the Scriptures, and he really knows how to heal people’. No, nothing like that. As far as we know from all the gospels together, this is the start of Jesus’ ministry – so far, he hasn’t really done anything, and yet, he was called beloved – the one in whom the Father was well pleased.
And at your own baptism, you didn’t have to do anything. In your baptism, God proclaimed that you are his beloved child, and claimed you and named you as God’s own. God’s love is his free gift to you – just like your baptism is his gift, too. Baptism is not a ritual that we give to God, but God’s act on us.
As Mark recorded, Jesus’ baptism was an event of cosmic proportions, one that prepared him for what came next, because immediately following his baptism, that same Spirit – the one who first looked like a peaceful dove – sent him out into the wilderness for 40 days. Perhaps you know something of the wilderness, of uncertainty, of fear. In the midst of the wilderness, what is it that we can hold onto? What is it that we know? We know who and whose we are – God’s beloved children, with whom he is well pleased. Live in the love, light and promise of this good news!
Loving God, thank you for claiming us as your own through baptism. When we experience wilderness in our lives, remind us of our identity in you. Amen.