I heard about a church whose new building project was about to be opened by a member of the royal family. The minister of the church thought it was great, as it seemed that everyone in the church was inspired to take action. The building was cleaned. Weeds were removed. Rooms were painted. Minor repairs that had been waiting for years suddenly mattered. There's an old joke that the Queen thinks every building in the land smells of paint, because they are all redecorated just before she arrives.
Two thousand years ago, baptism was something like that. The King is coming. Get cleaned up. Show that you meet his standards. Prepare the way for the Lord. Give him a clear road.
The royal in our story did not stop at the shower room and say she needed to be cleaned up. We'd be astonished if she did. Get that picture in your head and you'll see why John was astonished. Jesus had come to be baptised. It didn't make sense. Jesus doesn't explain himself; he politely tells John that it is right to go ahead.
And when he does ... the Spirit comes down upon him, and a voice from heaven tells him that he is God's beloved son. God is pleased with him.
This Sunday we will celebrate the baptism of a believer. We pray that as people are baptised God will fill them with his Spirit, that they will know that they are God's deeply-loved children. There's no better place to be than that. Yes we do need to be cleaned up. we do need to think about the way we live. But the great news today is that God welcomes us as he welcomes Jesus.
We are his children and we are deeply loved. Like Jesus is.
I heard that I can never move on to any chapter in my life unless I get through all these rituals and sacraments. If anyone is going to ask me, I think these are all meaningful and nostalgic to anyone who grew up in this kind of upbringing. Each of these things have a significance and it will never would be a necessity at an even better time. We all need to experience great experiences like these at least once.
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