Today in our worship we celebrate “The Baptism of Our Lord,” remembering the time when Jesus was baptized in the river Jordan. People of faith have participated in cleansing rituals for thousands of years as a symbol of washing away sin and restoring a right relationship to God. Many people had come to John in the wilderness for just such a cleansing—a baptism in water for the forgiveness of sins. But Jesus, Luke tells us, offers a different baptism…a purification of the soul with “holy wind and fire.”
Sometimes baptism is viewed as a culminating rite after a diligent time of searching after God. For Christians, however, baptism means much more than atonement for iniquities. Baptism is an act of initiation...a symbol of new birth and a sharing in Christ’s community of love. We become part of Christ’s body, the church, we receive his Spirit, and we are made to be his disciples. It will take each one of us a lifetime to live out the full meaning of our baptism, but because we are made part of Christ’s body we have one another to help keep us in the way while we we grow in faith.