Very few people admit to making u-turns when driving.
It is the epitome of saying, I screwed up–I didn’t know what I was doing. And yet, in our essential life, what is elemental to our existence, we are called to do that on a regular basis–repent. Because God knows that when we live disconnected from him, we are going to get way off course. That is what both baptism and communion are essentially about: reconnecting us to God, publicly acknowledging that we were going the wrong way, and without the saving presence of Jesus, we will continue to go the wrong way. In Matthew 3, several things happen, but the most important may be that Jesus, fully human, fully God, acknowledged that He, the son of God, needed the direct instruction from God the Father–His Father–to live his human life in a way that would please the Father. Perhaps Jesus didn’t need to do this, since he was fully God–but he did, and it provided a clear example for us–ask God the Father to wash us of our misdirection. We acknowledge it publicly–we are saying we need this, nothing else is going to do it. Likewise when we take communion, we are saying, I cannot live my life without the life that Jesus lived–I will go the wrong direction. Baptism, communion are about repentance, about making a u-turn from the me-directed life to the Jesus-directed, God first life I can thrive in, and give glory to the Father.
(Matthew Chapter 3) Thunder in the Desert!
- 1-2 While Jesus was living in the Galilean hills, John, called “the Baptizer,” was preaching in the desert country of Judea. His message was simple and austere, like his desert surroundings: “Change your life. God’s kingdom is here.”
- 3 John and his message were authorized by Isaiah’s prophecy: Thunder in the desert! Prepare for God’s arrival! Make the road smooth and straight!
- 4-6 John dressed in a camel-hair habit tied at the waist by a leather strap. He lived on a diet of locusts and wild field honey. People poured out of Jerusalem, Judea, and the Jordanian countryside to hear and see him in action. There at the Jordan River those who came to confess their sins were baptized into a changed life.
- 7-10 When John realized that a lot of Pharisees and Sadducees were showing up for a baptismal experience because it was becoming the popular thing to do, he exploded: “Brood of snakes! What do you think you’re doing slithering down here to the river? Do you think a little water on your snakeskins is going to make any difference? It’s your life that must change, not your skin! And don’t think you can pull rank by claiming Abraham as father. Being a descendant of Abraham is neither here nor there. Descendants of Abraham are a dime a dozen. What counts is your life. Is it green and flourishing? Because if it’s deadwood, it goes on the fire.
- 11-12 “I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. The real action comes next: The main character in this drama—compared to him I’m a mere stagehand—will ignite the kingdom life within you, a fire within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He’s going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he’ll put out with the trash to be burned.”
- 13-14 Jesus then appeared, arriving at the Jordan River from Galilee. He wanted John to baptize him. John objected, “I’m the one who needs to be baptized, not you!” 15 But Jesus insisted. “Do it. God’s work, putting things right all these centuries, is coming together right now in this baptism.” So John did it.
16-17 The moment Jesus came up out of the baptismal waters, the skies opened up and he saw God’s Spirit—it looked like a dove—descending and landing on him. And along with the Spirit, a voice: “This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life.”