Narrative Lectionary Key Verse for Today
NL Daily Devotion for Sunday, January 13, 2019
by Dr. Kimberly Leetch, Clergy Stuff
Main Idea: Our baptism calls us to fight for justice and peace, not to run or hide from the fight.
In the early days of Jesus’ ministry, John and Jesus were both considered prophets of the Lord. Both had followers who believed their leader was the one to save them from the occupation by Rome. By coming to John to be baptized, Jesus let his followers know that he was not a prophet speaking against John (potentially alienating John’s followers), but that both were working to set things right for Israel. Jesus affirmed John’s message—baptism for repentance, turning away from sin and toward God’s ways. Turning toward God had (and has) always been a key to Israel’s redemption.
What did turning toward God mean for them? John nailed it when he called out the Pharisees and Sadducees who showed up at John’s riverside revival. “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance.” For John, baptism meant action. It was not enough to flee from the turmoil to the wilderness. John demanded that they stand in the center of the turmoil, turn away from their own wicked ways, and fight for justice and peace. (John was also calling them out because many of the Pharisees and Sadducees did not come to follow John or to be baptized for repentance, but to observe the spectacle and to appeal to the crowds who followed John.)
Turmoil continues to plague humanity even today. Every culture faces gender, financial, racial, political, and education inequality. It can be tempting to turn a blind eye; the magnitude of the injustices can be overwhelming. But our baptism calls us, not to hide or run, but to stand strong and fight the injustices. While no one person can solve every world problem, every person can make small changes in their own lives to make their corner of the world better. Or find their passion and work hard at it.
John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. Jesus’ baptism offers us a relationship with God and with God’s people, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life—gifts we can claim so that we have freedom and power to turn around and offer these gifts, along with justice, equality, and peace, to others.
Narrative Lectionary Daily Reading:
In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,
‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.” ’
Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
‘I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfil all righteousness.’ Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’