Baptism and Temptation Go Hand in Hand
And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. Mark 1. 9 - 15
Baptisms in our church can be so festive and beautiful, infant ones especially. Babies robed in ancestors' gowns, moms and dads and God
parents beaming, and even tears and fits are allowed, often said to be the devil leaving the one being baptized.
However, when we mark a person as Christ's own forever, sealed by the Holy Spirit, we are recreating what happened to Jesus in the Jordan at the hands of John, his cousin the Baptist. And that scene was less than beautiful. People crowded on the bank of the River Jordan, dirty and dusty and probably scared, especially when a voice came down from heaven and a dove landed on Jesus's head! It might also have been a little confusing because it was Jesus who was supposed to be baptizing John, according to John. But it was essential that Jesus be baptized as part of his humanity and his humility, affirming the ministry of John and launching his own ministry...and saying to God and to humankind "Here I Am."
And then, immediately as Mark says, the Spirit drives, forces, rushes Jesus to the wilderness, the unknown, the world of temptations, pain, darkness and perhaps fear. Rarely do we think about that next step after our festive baptisms, but wilderness and temptation are an essential part of saying "Here I Am." In the sacrament of Baptism, we covenant with God to go out into the world and do the work God calls us to do, day by day, with "gladness and singleness of heart." And as we reply in the Baptismal Covenant, we commit to do this work by saying, "I will with God's help."
As we read the gospel lesson today, maybe we should end with a resounding "Here I Am, Lord."
But hang on, the journey can be rocky, but the rewards are mighty.