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John baptized to prepare the way for Jesus

August 29, 2023
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Daily Scripture

Luke 3:4-8

4 This is just as it was written in the scroll of the words of Isaiah the prophet,
A voice crying out in the wilderness:
    “Prepare the way for the Lord;
        make his paths straight.
5 Every valley will be filled,
    and every mountain and hill will be leveled.
The crooked will be made straight
    and the rough places made smooth.
6 All humanity will see God’s salvation” [Isaiah 40:3-5].
7 Then John said to the crowds who came to be baptized by him, “You children of snakes! Who warned you to escape from the angry judgment that is coming soon? 8 Produce fruit that shows you have changed your hearts and lives. And don’t even think about saying to yourselves, Abraham is our father. I tell you that God is able to raise up Abraham’s children from these stones.”

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Nearly four hundred years had gone by with no clear prophetic voice in Israel, and many Israelites were spiritually hungry. When John the Baptizer (or Baptist) began preaching, forcefully and urgently calling people to change their lives, he drew crowds hungry for a word from God. He baptized people as a symbol of cleansing and change. He warned those crowds that claiming to be Abraham’s descendants was worthless if their lives dishonored Abraham’s spiritual legacy.

  • John the Baptist had a very clear sense of mission: to lead people to repent and accept God’s forgiveness of sins and show it through the sign of baptism (verse 3). His passionate call for people to change and accept baptism was full of urgency. To what extent do you feel a sense of urgency in pursuing God’s path for your life? What steps help you keep your commitment to God’s call strong and focused?
  • Before John, Israelites baptized Gentile converts, but did not see any need to accept baptism for themselves. “John’s call for a one-time baptism for those who had been born as Jews was unprecedented. He insisted that one’s ancestry was not adequate to guarantee one’s relationship with God.” * Have you ever hoped that a family tradition of faith, or a denominational identity, would be enough to secure your standing with God? What makes personal baptism an important step?
Prayer

Lord Jesus, help me to clearly see your call on my life. Give me the courage and conviction of John the Baptist while living out that calling and doing your will. Amen.

GPS Insights

Denise Mersmann

Denise Mersmann

Denise Mersmann serves as the Care Coordination Director for the churchwide Care Central department at Church of the Resurrection.

I grew up in a Methodist church in a small Kansas town where there was one worship time on Sunday.

Walking into that service as a kid, I knew that not only would I be with my parents and brothers, but also my grandparents, my aunt and uncle, and two full pews of great aunts and uncles. It was a full-on hug-fest getting passed down the row to greet so many of my family members! 

That church and those people were my legacy. They were people of strong faith, each born and raised in that same small Methodist church. It felt like my faith was so tightly interwoven with theirs that all I needed to do was just show up.

Throughout those early years, I was vaguely aware that I had not been baptized. When I was thirteen, it was time for confirmation and as part of our confirmation classes we discussed baptism, if we had been baptized or not, and if we knew the reasoning behind it. I asked my parents why I had not been baptized and they said they wanted us to be old enough to be involved in the decision, and to understand the meaning of our baptism.

As the confirmation process went on, I began to think about being baptized and what that would look like for me. After all, it seemed like my decision to follow Jesus was less a choice and more a rite of passage in the footsteps of my family.

Knowing that I would choose to be confirmed in a few months, I decided I was ready to be baptized. It didn’t seem like a huge decision, because it felt like that plan had already been laid for me. Mom, Dad, and I met with our pastor, scheduled the date, and talked about what would happen as the pastor would ask for commitments from my parents and from me.

When the day came, I couldn’t have been less prepared. As I stood in front of that congregation, my family and friends, who had loved me and supported me my entire life, I was overwhelmed. I realized that if I said “yes” to the questions being asked, I suddenly owned my own faith! It was no longer me sliding in on a Sunday morning to hugs and butterscotch hard candies, with no accountability. 

As I looked at my parents standing beside me, and all my family sitting proudly behind me, and our pastor waiting for my answer I suddenly became aware–“Yes, this faith is mine now, but I have been training for it all my life.”

I couldn’t ride on the coattails of my amazing family, but I could take their words, their actions, their love, as an example and mold that into my faith. I won’t even pretend to have the depth of faith of those before me. Sometimes, I lean into that incredible legacy, remembering that day, thinking of how truly fortunate I was for each and every one of those people.

Over the years, as the family members who filled those pews have passed, I have entered that little church and felt such deep heartache for those who are no longer here. But then I realize that even though they are not there in person, they left me with something no one could take away.

Now it’s my turn, as my own kids, nephews, nieces, great nephews and nieces begin to make their faith decisions. It’s my turn to pass on the legacy that has shaped my life. It’s my turn to be there for them, with hugs (and candy) as they commit and live into a faith of their own.

© 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. 58.