Scripture Passage: Mark 1: 4-11
4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.5And 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.6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.7He 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.8I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” 9In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.10And 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.11And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
And in that moment, everything changed…All of the accounts of Jesus’ Baptism leave us with the image of God’s Spirit pouring into him, changing everything. But only in the Gospel of Mark are the heavens literally “torn apart”–not opened, but torn, ripped, dramatically separated. The Greek word for this means “schism”. It’s not the same as opening. Open, close, open, close–it is something that can be done over and over again just like you open and close your front door. But torn is different. Torn would imply that the ragged edges could never quite go back together again. It is a new ordering, a new Creation, with the seam between earth and heaven forever weakened, forever separated just enough that one who stops long enough to look could see through the threads.
We are told to “remember our baptism.” Well, for those of us who were baptized as infants, that is a little difficult. I was too young. I don’t remember. I know there was water; I know there were words; and maybe there was some tearing of the seam between heaven and earth. But I don’t remember. Well, thankfully, this sacred journey is not dependent upon chronological memory. Remembering is not just looking back. It is, rather, looking through that once-weakened opening between heaven and earth, and seeing ourselves in a different way, as a New Creation. Because whether or not we remember or whether or not we noticed it, for each of us, the sacred spilled into us and changed everything. Remembering is to remember that we are part of something far beyong ourselves and certainly far beyond what our minds could eover really remember.
As Jesus stood, dripping with the waters of the Jordan that poured back into themselves, everything indeed changed. In that moment, Bethlehem and Jerusalem, Creation and Eternity, manger and Cross, all who came before and all who would follow, were one. In that moment, all that was and all that would be were almost indistinguishable from each other. In that moment, all of those who were there that day and all of those who were part of the past and all of those who would come later in this walk of humanity, were swept into those waters, swept into the memories of what would be. Remembering means that we realize that we are part of the story, that we, too, emerge dripping with those waters.
This is a journey of remembering. Lent is not usually the season when we read this passage or are told to “remember our baptism”. But it is there, always there, always peeking through that now-jagged opening between heaven and earth. Remembering our baptism means realizing that we are right now dripping wet with those waters, recreated, with the heavens forever torn apart, forever visible if we will only see. Remembering is not limited to my memory of the words that were said when that little bit of water was sprinkled on me as a baby but rather the waters that are still dripping from each of us now. In this and every moment, everything has changed. Remember your baptism and be thankful. This do, in remembrance.
Grace and Peace,