Baptism of Jesus

January 12,2025

Lectionary Texts

Isaiah 43.1-7 — “I have redeemed you. When you go through the waters they will not overwhelm you: for I love you and I will be with you.”

Psalm 29 — “the voice of the Lord,” meaning God’s presence, God’s will or desire, and God’s power, evident in all Creation.

In Acts 8. 14-17 the church learns that even Samaritans are following Jesus. They send Peter and John, who pray for them to receive the Holy Spirit.

In Luke 3.15-22 Jesus is baptized. God says, “You are my Son, my beloved. With you I am well pleased.”

Preaching Thoughts

       God never promises life will go well for us, but that God will be with us. I think the single most damaging misconception we have about God is that God will protect us from suffering. Nope. When we suffer it’s not because God is abandoning us, or punishing us, or teaching us a lesson. It’s because crap happens. But whatever the suffering, God will be with us no matter what.

       Contrary to popular belief, baptism is not a sign of a believer’s faithfulness, but a sign of God’s. (John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance, but Christian baptism is a recognition of the Holy Spirit in us whether we repent nor not!) We are immersed in God’s grace, “born again” not of our own believing but of God’s grace. We don’t “get our children”— or ourselves— baptized. Baptism isn’t something we do at all, but something God does. The Baptismal service is our way of beholding what God has done and is doing in the person baptized—and in the community, for we are charged to treat the person as God’s beloved so they can accept it and integrate it for themselves.
       Like being married, we are only baptized once, and don’t need to “remarry,” but we do need to renew our vows all the time. Today is a great day to offer a Baptismal Renewal. It’s a great way to start the new year. Here’s a Service of Baptismal Renewal. And here are some further thoughts about the meaning of baptism. Some salient points:
• Baptism is a symbol of death and rebirth. God births us (“born of water and the Spirit, Jn. 3.5) and re-creates us as God’s Beloved, sets us free, and empowers us to live by God’s Spirit. As with the waters of chaos at Creation, God’s water breaks and God gives us new birth as people of the Spirit (1 Pet. 1.3-5). We are born again (always) as beloved children of God.
• God joyfully claims us as God’s Own: “You are my child, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt. 3.17). God doesn’t just tolerate us: God is actually delighted with us!
• God washes us clean of our past, our shame and our fear. God promises healing and blessing. The bath” of baptism isn’t just the washing away of the guilt for the bad stuff we do; it’s also washing away our fear that we’re not good enough. “With you I am well pleased!”
• The Spirit flows through us, makes us alive, and nourishes us like water in our bodies or a plant.
• We are immersed in Christ, plunged into the life of Christ. We are one with Christ; Christ’s life flows through us.
• God invites us to join Jesus in washing people’s feet.
• God shares our tears.
• The trick to being re-born is that first we have to die. We drown in Christ, losing our individual, self-made, self-enclosed “self,” and we are raised to new life as part of Christ’s body (Rom. 6.4; Col. 2.12).
• We surrender our ego’s insistence on being an individual and “die” into unity with the Holy One. We are all part of one life, one heart, one body.
• God goes with us through the Red sea, setting us free from what oppresses us and charging us to help God set others free.
• God invites us to entrust ourselves to God: to let ourselves float in the River of God, trusting that God bears us, letting God take us where God will.
• God anoints us as people who love not by the world’s expectations but by the Spirit.
• Like the water in a river (and its power), the Holy Spirit is the power in us to love boldly, to offer mercy and to do justice.
• We baptize infants because it’s not a symbol of our faith, but God’s “prevenient” action. Baptism is God’s “I do.” Confirmation is our response.

The ritual act of Baptism itself doesn’t make any of this happen like some magic trick; it’s already happening. The sacrament symbolizes all this in a way we can experience it and let it shape our living


       He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. Christian baptism is different from John’s. It’s not about repentance, but about opening ourselves to the presence and power of God’s Spirit in us.
       The unquenchable fire. Relax, it’s not the imagined fires of hell. It’s the fire that burns away the chaff, that removes what we don’t need. It’s cleansing, not punishing.
       John shut up in prison. A little reality check here. We live in a world wracked by evil, injustice, oppression and fear. Baptism isn’t all about sweet babies in white gowns, it’s about being anointed to the dangerous task of bearing witness to the Empire of Grace, which contradicts and threatens every other empire—and they will fight back. Baptism is a promise that God will be with us when we confront evil and injustice, even at great cost.
       The voice from heaven at Jesus’ baptism alludes to two Old testament scriptures: “This is my son” sounds like Psalm 2, which people considered to be about the Messiah. The phrase “with you I am well pleased” sounds like Isaiah 42.1, in one of Isaiah’s songs about a suffering servant. The combination of the two allusions suggests that Jesus is the anointed one of God—though not a conquering warrior, but a suffering reconciler.

A frequently asked question: If John performed a baptism of repentance and the forgiveness of sin, why was Jesus baptized? He didn’t sin, did he? Three responses.
       A. The idea that Jesus was sinless is related to the image of him as a sacrificial lamb, without blemish. In real life, I bet he did sin. He was a human being. Sin is way too pernicious for even Jesus to avoid. It’s human nature. It’s the function of the ego. We don’t need Jesus to be perfect to believe God lived fully in him, and that he sets us free from our sin. In fact I think Jesus has more authority in our struggle against sin precisely because he did sin, and had to learn to be free even from his own sin.
       B. To repent is to turn to God. We have to do this every moment of the day. Whenever our love, desire, gratitude or attention is focused on anything other than God, it’s sin. Even Jesus had to repent, to continually return to God. His authority as a savior is not in his never having needed forgiveness, but in his always letting go and turning to God, always asking for forgiveness, and always trusting it.
      C. John’s baptism was for forgiveness of sin; but baptism in Christ is a different thing. In receiving baptism Jesus changed it from merely repenting to being re-created, born of God and filled with the Spirit. So sometimes the apostles encountered people who knew of John’s baptism, but not baptism “in the Holy Spirit”—as in Acts 18.25 and 19.1-7. Jesus’s baptism wasn’t primarily about repentance: it was about being open to being born again in the Spirit. That’s the baptism we celebrate. In Jesus’ baptism, baptism itself was reborn: re-created as something new, something which we could share with him.

Call to Worship

Leader: God of majesty and might, God of cloud and ocean:
All: you rain down blessing upon us.
Fountain of Life, Womb of the World,
you birth us in love and glory.
Christ our sibling, living Cup of Salvation::
you heal us, you wash us clean, you quench the thirst of our souls.
Holy Spirit,River of Grace, tears of God’s Joy and Sorrow:
you flow in our veins, you pour out into the world—
new life for all Creation! Alleluia!

2.       (Adapted from Psalm 29)
Leader: Rejoice, O powers of the universe,
rejoice in the glory and strength of God.
All: God’s voice thunders over the mighty waters,
wonderful and majestic.

God’s power splinters cedars;
God’s presence flashes like fire
and shakes whole nations.
And over the flood is God, ruling forever.
God, bless us with your Spirit and your peace

Leader: Creator God, in the beginning your Spirit brooded over the waters
and you brought forth light.
All: Your Spirit gives us birth. Your light shines within us.
Brother Christ, you submitted to baptism in the Jordan River;
you immersed yourself in our life.
Your presence warms us. We rejoice in your grace.
Holy Spirit, your breath gives us life; your flame burns with compassion within us.
Alleluia! We immerse ourselves in your grace,
that we may always shine with the light of your love. Alleluia!

Leader: Creator God, the river of your grace flows about us.
All: We enter into its flow, deep in wonder, swimming in your grace.
Rabbi Jesus, you were baptized by John in the Jordan.
We come with you to be washed in the grace of God,
to be immersed in the glory of the Beloved.
Holy Spirit, you came to Jesus at his baptism like a dove.
Come to us, and fill us with the joy of your presence,
the song of your power, the feathers of delight.
Give us wings to do your will, and to be your people.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

5.           [Isa. 43.1-4; Lk. 3.22]
Leader: Thus says Yahweh, who created you:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”
All: Creator God, we greet you!
“You are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you.”
Christ, Love of God, we thank you!
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you”
Holy Spirit, be with us now and always!
May we be your Beloved, in whom you are well pleased.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

God of love, Jesus came to the Jordan to be baptized by John. With Jesus we come to the water to be immersed in your grace. Receive us, wash us and renew us. Baptize us with the Holy Spirit and with fire, that we may flow with your grace all our days, in the name of Christ. Amen.

Loving God, Jesus came to the Jordan to be baptized. So we come to your Word, to wade in deep, to be immersed in your grace, to let the Mystery flow around us. We listen for your voice. May we hear your Living Word. Amen.

God of truth, at Jesus’ baptism you spoke words of love and grace. We come now and immerse ourselves in your presence, and sink beneath the surface of your Word. We listen for your voice. Speak to us, and let us hear. Send the dove of your Spirit upon us and let us be changed. We pray in the name of Jesus, and in the power of your Spirit. Amen.

Gracious God, deep river of blessing, as Jesus went into the waters of the Jordan, we come now to be immersed in your Word. You have said we are your beloved children in whom you are well pleased. May the heavens be opened for us; may your Spirit descend upon us. Speak your Good News to us, and transform our hearts, that we may live new lives for your sake and the sake of your Gospel. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

God of love,
the clear waters of your grace swirl around us.
The stream of your love flows from deep springs to the sea,
from here to the ends of the earth,
from ancient generations to those yet to come.
We sink deep in your blessing.
We let your presence wash over us.
Bathe us in the waters of your grace.

God, you said to Jesus “You are my Beloved.”
We immerse ourselves in your Word.
Let your love flow around us,
hold us gently, wash us clean,
and give us joy.
You said, “You are my servant in whom I am delighted.”
Let your Word hold us up and bear us on,
carrying us into the lives to which you call us,
to serve you in love and justice,
in the name and the company of Jesus.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending

We are baptized with Christ, and the Spirit of God is upon us
to bring good news to the poor, recovery of sight to the blind,
and liberty to the oppressed.
The Spirit drives us into the wilderness,
into the world, into the arms of God.
Send us, then, God, in the name and the Spirit and the company of Jesus. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)

Light for the World      (An Epiphany “Theme Song”)
A dialogue between cantor and congregation. May be used throughout the Epiphany season. one or two verses per week. The cantor’s words reflect lectionary texts; the congregation’s refrain is the same throughout.

Lyrics for Baptism of Jesus:

Congregation, Refrain:
Love, may we live by your light.
Let us be light for the world.

Cantor, Verses:
3. “You are my servant in whom I delight, a light unto the nations.”
Shine for the ones who dwell in the dark, with comfort and justice.

4. God said, “Let light shine out of the dark,”
and shines with that glory in Jesus.
And when we turn our faces to Christ, God shines in our own heart.

             See all songs with Baptism tag, especially these:

God, We Rise to Serve You       
           (Tune: Sing We Now of Christmas / Now the Green Blade Rises]

God, we rise to serve you, baptized in your love
as your Holy Spirit hovers like a dove.
We, your Beloved, whom you bless with grace,
offer you our gifts with love and joy and peace.

God, your Spirit in us, dove with wings unfurled,
gives us pow’r to bring forth justice to the world.
Baptized in Christ, we serve with mercy’s grace,
bringing to the world your love and joy and peace.

Immersed in Blessing       (Tune: Joyful, Joyful)

Baptized in your grace with Jesus, loving God, we sing your praise.
Echoing your own delight, with joy and thanks our song we raise.
Your beloved children, birthed anew and rising from your womb,
God, we bear your love through all our living, and beyond the tomb.

God you heal, forgive and nourish, and revive us breath by breath;
you restore our broken trust and save us from our fear of death.
Like a dry and withered plant revived by water at its root,
we are saved by streams of grace, for flourishing and bearing fruit.

Bathed in grace, immersed in blessing, joined with your Beloved Son,
how can we not love each other?— for your Spirit makes us One.
Carried on a stream of mercy, springs beneath and rain above,
may we flow with peace and in your Spirit flood the world with love.

Spirit Feast (Tune: Cradle Song)

With hearts that are baptized in mercy and grace,
we enter the mystery of this time and place
to feast on your mercy in light from above,
receiving your Spirit, made one in your love.

The cup that we drink from flows deep with your love,
the water of blessing, descent of the dove.
“My Chosen, Beloved, in whim I am pleased,”
we’re sent by your Spirit to shine with your light.

With blest, grateful hearts, God, we come to this feast,
and pray that your Spirit in us be released.
This sharing, this joy and this justice you share
is ours now to bring to the word everywhere.

We Are Your Body      (Tune: Be Thou My Vision)

God of all holiness, baptized in you,
we are your Body: your presence shines through.
We, poor in spirit, are blessed with your own.
May our lives shine forth with your grace alone.

We who with Jesus do mourn with the world
shall see your banners of deep joy unfurled.
We who are hungry for love freely shared
feast at the banquet that you have prepared.

May we be merciful and pure in heart,
your gentle peacemakers, doing our part.
Dying and rising, we fear no great loss,
sealed with your Spirit and marked with your cross.

When Jesus Was Baptized (Tune: Cradle Song)

When Jesus was baptized, John said to repent,
and follow the Righteous One whom God had sent.
So wash us, dear God, and create us anew,
born fresh from your grace, living wholly in you.

When Jesus was baptized in waters that flow,
he sank in the Source of what makes all things grow.
So, held in Creation, renewed and made one,
we swim in the grace of your life-giving Son.

When Jesus was baptized in light, like a dove
your Spirit came down and you filled him with love.
So give us your Spirit: let all that we do
be you living in us, as we live in you.

When Jesus was baptized you spoke from above,
saying “This is my servant, my son, whom I love.”
So help us to hear you speak love when you call,
and as your Beloved, share freely with all.

You Are My Delight (Tune: Londonderry Air, “Oh, Danny Boy”)

We come with you, dear Jesus, through the desert hills,
down to the river, flowing gently by,
where through the rocks and valleys, deepening, it spills,
and flows into the sea, the earth, the sky.
    As we sink down and rise up from the water
    a dove descends, a voice speaks, clear and bright:
    “Know you are my beloved son, my daughter,
    my spirit is in you and you are my delight.

We go our way, and in our daily living
we follow you, and scatter rays of love
in deeds of caring, healing grace and giving,
for still we hear that voice and see the dove:
    “No river can undo you, for with you I go.
    I give my heart to you, and give you light.
    For you are mine, I hold you and I love you so.
   All water says, ‘Remember you are my delight.’”

                       (Can be found in Offering Songs)

(Tune: Fairest Lord Jesus)

Blessed by your Spirit, God, and immersed in deepest grace,
baptized in love, in love we live.
In us your mercy grows; love like a river flows;
and so our finest gifts we give.


Baptized in love, O God, washed, renewed and risen, new,
in your Spirit we are one.
Yours are the gifts we give; yours are the lives we live,
bright shining as the morning sun.

             (Tune: Old 100th,
or Gift of Love (“The Water Is Wide), or
               or Tallis’ Canon

To You, O God, our praise we give,
For baptized into Christ, we live.
Thus may your Holy Spirit be
Our life and breath eternally! Amen.

               (Tune: Morning Has Broken)

Baptized, anointed, filled with your Spirit,
we are appointed bearers of light:
for liberation, servants of justice,
bringing the nations joy and delight.

Gladly we praise you, God our Creator,
joyfully raise our hearts up in prayer.
Humbly we give you thanks, Holy Spirit,
help us to live your Word everywhere.


Great holy giver of life and wonder,
deep like a river your blessings flow.
Gladly we give you praise and thanksgiving:
gifts we will give wherever we go.


Washed in your waters, baptized with Jesus,
your sons and daughters, risen anew,
each day we live we freely surrender,
our lives we give, God, gladly to you.

                (Tune: Be Thou My Vision)

God, we are raised to new life with your Son,
filled with your Spirit and baptized as one.
Branches of one vine, your fruits we will bear,
going to all the world, your great love to share.

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