Reflection for Sunday 10th January 2021 "The Baptism of Christ' by the Rev'd Russell Duncan

Submitted by Dean on Sat, 09/01/2021 - 11:36

Epiphany 1 – Sunday 10th January 2021 – Baptism of Christ

You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased

I wonder how often we have been told that we are “beloved”? No matter how many times, I suspect that it is never enough.

An elderly acquaintance used to speak fondly of his “beloved”. His wife had died some years earlier. Although I had never met her there was something deeply personal and touching about how he spoke. There was a sense of something that had been lost, of something that would never come back and even a sense of deep longing.  All I could do was to listen.

In today’s gospel the one whom John the Baptist has proclaimed is here. It is as if John can now say with confidence “this is he of whom I have long spoken Look everyone. Take note. He has arrived”. There was no fanfare, no procession, no important officials.

If we look closer there is a lovely, intimate encounter between the members of the Trinity. There is a voice coming from heaven (whom we take to be the Father although not specifically identified in the narrative) telling Jesus as he comes out of the water that “you are my Son, the beloved, with you I am well pleased”. The Spirit is also present descending on him like a dove. What wonderful affirmation and assurance.

Not surprisingly, the baptism of Jesus has been depicted since the earliest days in Christian art. We will all have our own favourite pictures or images.  One of mine is by Piero della Francesca, painted c. 1450 which is in the National Gallery, London. One art critic comments that “all is momentarily still in the light of revelation. It is that luminous stillness which the painting captures so well.

The theologian, Jane Williams, also comments that “As Jesus comes out of the darkness of the river, into the light, we see the one whom God loves, and through whom he shares his love with us. God’s creating word, spoken at the dawn of the world, is spoken again, to draw us into his community”.

The sacrament of baptism signifies our initiation or incorporation into Christ and his body, the Church, of which we are part. But how does it actually affect us each day?

The liturgist and former Bishop of Gloucester, Michael Perham, comments that “For generations people have undervalued their baptism. They know it was something that was done and is now long since past. What needs to be rediscovered is the sense, not that I was baptised, but that I am baptised. What happened then committed me to a style of living that is still being worked out. There is a sense in which we all need to be able to remember our baptism by being able to reclaim its promises and celebrate its meaning through the cycle of the Christian year”

I want to end with the Prayer of Petition which we all say together each Sunday from the 1982 Scottish Liturgy. It reminds us of our baptism and how it is being lived out by us, individually and collectively.

“Help us, who are baptised into the fellowship of Christ’s body

to live and work to your praise and glory;

may we grow together in unity and love

until at last, in your new creation,

we enter into our heritage

in the company of the Virgin Mary, the apostles and prophets,

and of all our brothers and sisters, living and departed”

You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased