Sermon Scripture: Mark 1
4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” 9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Prepare; preparation; prep;
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”
Be Prepared – That’s the motto of the Boy Scouts.
“Be prepared for what?” someone once asked Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting,
“Why, for any old thing.” said Baden-Powell.
The training you receive in your troop will help you live up to the Scout motto. When someone has an accident, you are prepared because of your first aid instruction. Because of lifesaving practice, you might be able to save a nonswimmer who has fallen into deep water.
But Baden-Powell wasn’t thinking just of being ready for emergencies. His idea was that all Scouts should prepare themselves to become productive citizens and to give happiness to other people. He wanted each Scout to be ready in mind and body for any struggles, and to meet with a strong heart whatever challenges might lie ahead.
Be prepared for life – to live happily and without regret, knowing that you have done your best. That’s what the Scout motto means.
If you didn’t study, should you really ask God to help you on a test?
When we become women and men of a certain age, new tests enter our lives where the preparation is much more difficult than the tests themselves!
The Baptism of Jesus means several things:
1) Jesus shows his humility, and joins into the long tradition of Messianic preaching which John anticipates.
2) Jesus unites himself with our humanity by participating in that which we need – it is one more example of the incarnation – Immanuel, God WITH US!
3) Jesus marks a turning point in his own life. Repentance does not just mean from sin, but from one way of life toward another. In this sense, Jesus very much does need to repent – to turn away from a secular family life and toward his calling as the Messiah.
4) Jesus sets us an example to follow. The Master Teacher will not ask the student to do anything the teacher is not willing to and has not already done. As Jesus’ disciples, we are to do as he has done.
What are the implications for us?
Paul talks about the need to prepare ourselves for the life of the spirit in Christ.
1 Timothy 4:7 …. Train yourself in godliness, 8 for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 9 The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance. 10 For to this end we toil and struggle, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul echoes this athletic training theme, but this time to a whole community: 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings. 24 Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. 25 Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. 26 So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; 27 but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified
The struggle we are waging is not against other people. Nearly all of our fights are between people – and they get personalized, when the real issue is in the world of the unseen – ideas, beliefs, systems of power. And Paul calls us to ready ourselves:
Ephesians 6: 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. 15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. 16 With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Let’s return to the story of Jesus’ baptism. John is proclaiming a baptism of repentance. In Acts 19 we heard that John’s disciples are still preaching and performing a baptism of repentance years after the resurrection and ascension of the Lord. In 2 Corinthians 5:21 Paul calls Jesus, “He who knew no sin.” And in Hebrews 4:15 we read that Jesus “has been tested in every way as we are tested, yet without sin.”
Why then did Jesus need to receive the baptism of repentance?
John even asks him this question in Matthew’s Gospels. To which Jesus reply’s, “Let it be so now, for this is necessary to “fulfill all righteousness.” (Mt 3:13).
Let’s continue on a bit in Mark 1: 12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. 14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” 16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. 21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
Paul tells us that preparation matters. He’s just given us a list of things to do – spiritual disciplines to practice – as our preparation for the life of the spirit in Christ. This message is not given to individuals, but to a community – these are community practices. Let me list them again for us:
14 Stand therefore, and
fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and
put on the breastplate of righteousness.
15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.
16 With all of these,
take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
17 Take the helmet of salvation, and
the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Paul’s point is that we are to undertake serious work of preparing ourselves for the life discipleship – that it will be a challenge comparable to physical battle. Just as no one prepares for or goes into battle alone, so we are not called to prepare for or live the life of Jesus in the world alone – we are called to come together in preparation.
What specifically should we do:
1) Explore what is true – that which leads to life and freedom in Christ.
2) Practice and pursue justice in the world
3) Prepare ourselves to proclaim peace through words and actions
4) Share stories of hope to build up our faith
5) Rest securely in understanding and trust in God’s redeeming love
6) Be filled with the word of God, both through scripture and through the ongoing teaching and revelation.
God is revealing God’s dream for us. It will be big, challenging, and a bit scary. It will be more than we can accomplish on our own. It will seem out of reach, impossible.
And it will be impossible, if we do not prepare ourselves. During Lent we will enter a time of preparation through spiritual disciplines, following Jesus’ example of 40 days in the wilderness, being tested and readied for the ministry ahead.
After all, preparation matters.