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Baptism before John and Jesus

August 28, 2023
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Daily Scripture

Psalm 51:2-7, Isaiah 4:3-6

Psalm 51
2 Wash me completely clean of my guilt;
    purify me from my sin!
3 Because I know my wrongdoings,
    my sin is always right in front of me.
4 I’ve sinned against you—you alone.
    I’ve committed evil in your sight.
That’s why you are justified when you render your verdict,
    completely correct when you issue your judgment.
5 Yes, I was born in guilt, in sin,
    from the moment my mother conceived me.
6 And yes, you want truth in the most hidden places;
    you teach me wisdom in the most secret space.
7 Purify me with hyssop and I will be clean;
    wash me and I will be whiter than snow.

Isaiah 4
3 Whoever remains in Zion and is left in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who is on the list of those living in Jerusalem. 4 When the LORD washes the filth from Zion’s daughters, and cleanses Jerusalem’s bloodguilt from within it by means of a wind of judgment and a searing wind, 5 then the LORD will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over its assembly a cloud by day and smoke and the light of a blazing fire by night. Over all the glory there will be a canopy, 6 which will be a booth by day for shade from the heat and a hiding place and shelter from a stormy downpour.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

When John the Baptizer, and then Jesus’ followers, baptized people, there is no record of anyone asking, “What do they think they are doing?” “Followers of John or Jesus who participated in the baptismal rite, whether Jew or Gentile, would not have found this practice totally unfamiliar. Water is the element naturally used for cleansing the body, and its symbolic use entered into almost every religious practice, and none more completely than Jewish practices.” *

  • Baptism recognizes symbolically that God loves you just as you are, and loves you too much to leave you as you are. Pastor Hamilton wrote, “Don’t pretend you’re seeking forgiveness if you’re really not. The kind of half-hearted apologies we sometimes offer don’t cut it here.” ** What did Psalm 51 show about the quality of whole-hearted repentance? When have you been able to talk to God in that forthright, unqualified tone?
  • Isaiah 4’s words followed a searing indictment of the arrogant wealthy men and women of Israel (cf. Isaiah 3:14-17, 24-26). Even judgment might serve as a cleansing baptism. “God is faithful…. through the ‘spirit of judgment’ and the ‘spirit of burning,’ Isaiah foresees the washing of the people of Zion… so that the people and their city can fulfill their God-given purpose.” *** Have the painful results of doing wrong ever moved you to turn to God for cleansing and a fresh start?
Prayer

Lord God, help me clearly see the times when I am wrong, and to face them honestly. Thank you for offering me your cleansing grace and life transformation at those times. Amen.

GPS Insights

Mindy LaHood

Mindy LaHood

Mindy LaHood serves as a Worship Experience Specialist at The Church of the Resurrection. She loves all things related to worship and enjoys working with our talented team of staff and volunteers. One of her favorite things to read about and study are stained glass windows, and she considers herself very blessed to work and worship in a place with such a magnificent window.

As I reflect on my baptism and its profound meaning within the United Methodist Church, a mix of emotions and memories flood my heart. I was not baptized as an infant. I decided to be baptized in a Baptist Church at the age of 13. While I might not remember every detail of that significant day, I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it changed me.

The memory of everyone rallying around me is etched in my mind–my parents, my Sunday School teacher, my pastor, and my friends. Their enthusiasm, their joy, their sheer delight in my decision to be baptized, all created a whirlwind of emotions within me. And yet, there was an undercurrent of anxiety, a nervousness that I was hesitant to admit. Their happiness mattered to me, and I didn’t want to let them down.

I vividly recall the moments just before the baptismal service–a small room, a gathering of unfamiliar faces, and hands gently resting on my head and shoulders as heartfelt prayers were offered on my behalf. In that intimate space, I felt their expectations and a yearning for God’s guidance. I wanted to be sure of my decision, to feel a profound connection with God’s leading. But what I felt most was a gripping fear, an overwhelming apprehension of the unknown.

Growing up in the church meant I was surrounded by prayers, nurtured in faith, and educated about Jesus and his boundless love. The story of his sacrifice and the depth of his love were woven into my very being. But there came a point when I realized that my journey hadn’t yet held a distinctive turning point, a before-and-after transformation. I yearned for a deeper, more tangible connection, a way to truly feel the significance of my faith.

As the day of my baptism neared, I faced a series of questions–questions of belief, of surrender, of readiness. In a group setting, answering these questions seemed natural. After all, when your Sunday School teacher asks, the answer is almost instinctively “yes.” Yet, even at 13, a seed of understanding sprouted within me. I knew that this moment was about more than mere words; it was about the stirring of the heart and the awakening of the spirit.

My baptism day arrived, a step in my faith journey, a commitment to follow Christ’s example. Looking back, I can admit that I might not have fully comprehended its depth. But one thing I was sure of–I wanted it to matter. I yearned for it to be a transformative force in my life, a gateway to a deeper understanding of God’s grace.

Nearly 36 years have passed since that day at First Baptist Church in Decatur, Illinois. Over time, I’ve come to recognize the profound significance of baptism–a commitment that transcends emotions and experiences, a commitment that sets us on a path of continual seeking and growth. My journey led me to the embrace of the Methodist Church, where the Wesley Covenant Prayer became a steadfast companion. In moments of doubt or confusion, it has been my anchor, a reminder of my identity and purpose. A reminder of the covenant I made when I was baptized, and what I hope to live out daily.

Through the years, I’ve come to realize that my baptism indeed changed me, albeit in ways I couldn’t have predicted. It ignited a fire within me, a fire that burns brighter with each step I take in pursuit of a deeper relationship with Christ. The fear I once felt has been replaced by a steadfast faith, and the quest to feel something has transformed into an unwavering trust in God’s love, which is far more expansive than any fleeting emotions.

So, as I look back on my baptism journey, I’m reminded that God meets us in the midst of our fears and uncertainties, gently guiding us forward. I find solace in knowing that my journey is ongoing, still changing me, still drawing me closer to the heart of God. As I recite the Wesley Covenant Prayer, I am reminded of the transformative power of grace–a grace that sustains me, changes me, and continually draws me into a deeper, more intimate relationship with the One who has loved me from the beginning:

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things
to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
References

* D. S. Dockery, article “Baptism” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Downers Grove, IL., InterVarsity Press, 1992, p. 56.
** Hamilton, Adam. Forgiveness: Finding Peace Through Letting Go. (Kindle Locations 255-256). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.
*** David L. McKenna, The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 17: Isaiah 1–39. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993, pp. 85-86.