"When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "you are my son whom I love; with you I am well pleased."
Kenneth L. Samuel
Water is a powerful metaphor for new creation and new beginning. Whether we speak of the deep waters that out of which the cosmos was created in Genesis, or the waters of Hurricane Katrina and Super Storm Sandy that forged new communities of compassion across the country, or the waters of gestation in the uterus that hold the precious infant before delivery - we know that when water breaks forth, new life is created and old lives are renewed.
A major component of the new life that we celebrate in the sacrament of baptism is the new mind engendered in those who are baptized. It is the new mind that acknowledges and celebrates our affirmation in Christ Jesus. The baptism of Jesus, which occurred at the outset of his public ministry, was the occasion for his affirmation as the Son of God, in whom God was already pleased. This affirmation was prior to any of his public acts of ministry, prior to any of his miracles, prior to his sermon on the mount, prior to his feeding of the multitudes and prior to his sacrifice on the cross. God's affirmation of Jesus at baptism was prior to any performance by Jesus. It was an affirmation at the outset.
To be baptized into our affirmation by God at the outset of a new year or a new initiative is a powerful thing. It lets the student know on the first day of class that she is already affirmed as competent and capable of academic excellence. It says to the person approaching the altar of marriage "You are loved completely for who you are right now, with no stipulation!" It says to the professional, "Your worth is much greater than the job you do; your worth is in the person that you are." It says to all of us that true love is never earned. It is a gift that must be accepted, appreciated and celebrated.
At baptism we are affirmed. What else must we do but live into the fulfillment of who God says we already are?
Dear God, with so many pressures upon us to perform, thank you for loving us and accepting us and calling us into your affirmation just as we are. Thank you for baptism. Amen.