(The Baptism of the Lord)
Rev. Dominique Peridans
Four churches in a small Ohio town:
Presbyterian, Methodist, Catholic and Episcopal.
All four, oddly, overrun with pesky squirrels.
The Presbyterians, after much prayer and consideration, determined
that the squirrels were predestined to be there, and they shouldn't interfere
with God's divine will.
The Methodists had to deal with the squirrels having taken up
habitation in the Baptismal font. They opted for a very practical approach:
secure a cover on the font. The squirrels, however, somehow managed to
move it and there were twice as many squirrels the next week, having a
The Catholics decided that they were in no position to harm any of
God's creation. So, humanely, they trapped the squirrels and set them free
a few miles outside of town. Three days later, the squirrels were back.
The Episcopalians came up with the most effective solution: they
baptized the squirrels and registered them as members of the parish. Now
they only see them on Christmas and Easter.
In his Catechism, published in 1538, John Calvin asks,
“How do you know yourself to be a child of God in fact as well as in
Answer: “Because I am baptized in the name of God the Father, and of
and of the Holy Ghost.”
Baptism, as we Episcopalian Christians know and experience it, that is to
as a guaranteed encounter with the Triune God, finds its source in the
of the Lord, the author of Baptism because the “author of our salvation”.
It is odd that Jesus be baptized, however, for He has no need for Baptism.
Jesus had no need for Baptism, for He is “full of grace” (John 1:14),
and grace is what we believe Baptism confers.
If Jesus has no need for Baptism, then why was He baptized?
To make John the Baptist feel that his ministerial labor is worthwhile?
Because He couldn’t resist the cool waters on a hot day?
Jesus can only be baptized if He is to make use of John’s Baptism,
the Baptism that stands at the threshold of the New Covenant.
Jesus does make use of John’s Baptism to institute a Baptism
which confers grace, the Baptism.
As St. Ambrose, 4 th century Bishop of Milan, says:
Our Lord was baptized because He wished, not to be cleansed,
but to cleanse the waters, that,
being purified by the flesh of Christ that knew no sin,
they might have the virtue of baptism.
In being baptized, Jesus makes a promise:
to use the simple element of water to communicate divine life in a special
A guaranteed encounter with the Triune God.
So guaranteed, that it led Saint Isidore, ancient Christian philosopher,
Bishop of Seville, Spain, who died in 636—and who, by the way,
invented the period, the comma and the colon—to say that
“Baptism is not the work of man but of Christ, and this sacrament is
that it would not be defiled, even if the minister were a
Those Baptismal waters…
Those Baptismal waters led Lutheran pastor Nadia-Bolz Weber,
whom I quoted last Sunday, to say,
“Many of us would pray not to die in a car crash before we were
like other people pray not to get sick before their employee benefits
Those Baptismal waters led contemporary theologian Carrie Underwood to
I followed that preacher man down to the river.
And now I'm changed,
And now I'm stronger.
There must've been something in the water.
Those Baptismal waters led another singer of another generation
of another musical genre, Nina Simone, to sing
Take me to the water
To be, to be baptized
I'm going back home, going back home
Gonna stay here no longer
I'm going back home, going back home
Baptism confers grace to us, and grace grants us a share in God’s life,
Indeed, the Baptism of Jesus reveals this.
Jesus comes to be Baptized in the Jordan,
through which the Israelites entered the Promised Land.
By grace, and thus through Baptism, we enter the “Promised Land”.
The “Promised Land”, for us, is nothing less than God’s life.
Finally, the Baptism of Jesus reveals the mystery of God, “the heavens
The Holy Spirit, like a dove, that is to say, full of gentle love, descends,
confirming the divine origin of Jesus.
Then, “a voice came from heaven”, expressing divine delight: the Father.
Son, Holy Spirit, Father.
This epiphany is not only of Jesus but of the Trinity.
It is the first explicit New Testament revelation of the Trinity.
Today, we celebrate
Jesus as God
God as Trinity
ourselves as beloved children of God
Jesus is the Beloved, in whom, we are the beloved.
Each of us is a beloved child of God.
God has given us everything, so that we be born again and live His very life
—which means: a happiness deep in the heart that no one/nothing can
We must, of course, cooperate with grace.
We do so by seeking God and letting ourselves be found by God
and by stepping out in faith to love our neighbor.
Loving neighbor is intrinsic to our relationship with Christ.
Worry not, however. Christ makes this possible: grace upon grace… (John