The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And 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. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He 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. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And 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. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
“You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Mark’s gospel begins with the briefest of introductions to John the baptizer and Jesus of Nazareth. We know from the beginning of the gospel who Jesus is and that his ministry will embody the Kingdom of God come near.
Theologian Douglas Hare characterizes the baptism of Jesus as his own call story. Jesus hears the voice of God, receives the Spirit of God, and goes forth to begin his public ministry. Can you imagine God saying to you, “You are my son; you are my daughter – beloved. With you I am well pleased.” And, if not, why not? What other voices might you be listening to that take you away from your central identity and belonging as beloved children of God?
John Westerhoff writes that it is not necessary to be baptized to receive and embody the love of God. That was given to us at creation. Particularly in these challenging times, there are many voices out there that might take us away from a sense of belovedness and belonging. There are quite discordant voices out there that seek to separate, discriminate, and foment division and fear. As beloved children of God, we are better than that, and God calls us to be better than that.
In these confusing and sometimes chaotic times, listen for the voice of God calling you beloved. Remember the way of Jesus who brought the Kingdom of God near and showed us what sacrificial love looks like and how that love changed the course of human history. You are indeed beloved and a child of God with whom God is well pleased. Let it be so for you and for me.
Almighty God, by the hand of Mark the evangelist you have given to your Church the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God: We thank you for this witness, and pray that we may be firmly grounded in its truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Book of Common Prayer)