Responding to God’s call to be a “light to the nations”
- Isaiah 49:1-7
- Psalm 40:1-12
- I Corinthians 1:1-9
- John 1:29-42
Christians see their baptism as a calling into discipleship. Christ calls people into servanthood today as the first disciples were called on the lakeshore and in the counting house. Isaiah speaks of his call and his mission to restore Israel, with God’s promise to become his strength in doing so. God will make his servant a light to the nations.
John the Baptist tells of Jesus’ coming to him as he was baptizing; and John bears witness that Jesus is God’s Chosen One. The next day Andrew and another follower of John the Baptist go home with Jesus, and Andrew tells his brother Simon Peter, “We have found the Messiah!” The baptismal rite includes elements of being called that reflect Jesus’ call to the first disciples: “I present N. to receive the sacrament of baptism . . . Do you renounce Satan . . . Do you turn to Jesus?”
What difference can one person make? Edward Everett Hale once said,
I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.
In today’s Gospel Jesus walks out of relative obscurity only to be identified by John the Baptist as “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Soon after, Jesus is joined by others. Years later, Peter and many others are spreading the gospel of Christ to all nations. John proclaimed Jesus, and the ripple effects of that proclamation reached far and wide. With the missional theme of Epiphany, we are again reminded that one person’s testimony can make all the difference in the world.
At the Baptism of Jesus
by Walter Brueggemann in Prayers for a Privileged People (2008: Abingdon Press).
We celebrate that splashing moment at the Jordan, less muddy than the river is now. John the Baptist, voice of demand and challenge, and Jesus submitting to him. John recognizes him before the rest of us do. He called him, “Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world.”
And then he plunged him into the waters of the river. He is a lamb who suffers and saves; he loves the world; he addressed the skewed and distorted way of the world; he comes up out of the water and makes new.
We become aware, out of his baptism, of a new world, a world of grace and goodness, a world of freedom and opportunity, a world of justice and mercy and forgiveness, all from that moment of water . . . and the dove and the name and the power.
And we remember our own baptism when we were named and claimed, and called to newness. In our moment of water, like his, our world began again: we are grafted to God’s new governance; we are summoned into new obedience; we are rooted in fresh goodness and forgiveness.
We hear the splash of water and pause, and begin again . . . not burdened by what is old, not bewitched by what is failed, not cowed by what threatens us. Now is our time for newness and hope and love and forgiveness, and we, after him, reenter your newness yet again.
- What can you do as a disciple of Christ that will have a ripple effect?
- What gives you new hope for this new year?
- In John 1:38, Jesus asks the two men who followed him, “What are you looking for?” Why do you think they followed Jesus in the first place – what were they seeking? What are you looking for in your spiritual life?