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Old Testament:            Genesis 9:8-17

Psalm                           25: 1-9

Epistle:                        1 Peter 3:18-22

Gospel:                        Mark 1:9 -15

Hello friends, my name is Dr. Mark Hobson, and welcome to this homily or teaching on the readings for the First Sunday of Lent celebrating the baptism of Jesus. You probably know the word “Lent” is an Anglo-Saxon term meaning “springtime.” In the Episcopal Church tradition, as in most mainstream Christian faiths, Lent is a time for prayer, fasting and almsgiving, or caring for those in need.  In our lectionary calendar, we are in Year B as we focus on Saint Mark’s Gospel. Today, we will review how the readings fit with the baptismal event of Jesus in the Jordan River conducted by John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus, and our own baptism. We begin our video teaching today with the proclamation of the Gospel.

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark + (May the Word of the Lord be in my mind, on my lips, and in my heart).

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.”

+The Gospel of the Lord

Praise to you, Lord Christ.

I begin today with a seasonal joke that has no spiritual macronutrients. A Baptist farmer retired and moved into a Catholic neighborhood. That first Lent, he drove the neighbors crazy by grilling steak for dinner every Friday. The neighbors asked their parish priest to invite the man to church and try to convert him. The farmer agreed, went to church, and was baptized. The priest prayed over him, sprinkled holy water on his head and declared, “You were born a Baptist, raised a Baptist, and now you are Catholic.” The farmer went home and sure enough, that Friday, he cooked a huge steak on the grill for dinner. The neighbors showed up and watched as the farmer sprinkled water over the steak and said, “You were born a cow, raised a cow, and now you are a fish.” Moo-la-la!

According to Scripture scholars, Noah was a descendant of Adam, and in turn, he became an ancestor of Abraham. In today’s reading from Genesis, we sign a sign of the covenant, a word meaning bond signifying a last relationship, with God that extended to Noah’s descendants and all of creation. The sign of the covenant was a rainbow after the great flood. God said, “I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.” Today’s reading is the first, but not the last, covenant that God made with the chosen people of Israel. Rainbows continue to be a beautiful sign of God’s love for all His children.

Psalm 25 reinforces the message of God’s covenant with His beloved people. The psalmist writes, “All the paths of the Lord are love and faithfulness to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.” In the Scriptures, God is always the faithful party of the bond with His people, even when the people stray from His teachings. The psalmist writes, “Gracious and upright is the Lord; therefore he teaches sinners in his way.” God’s way is love and forgiveness.

In the first letter of Saint Peter, we read that Jesus is the final and everlasting covenant with God and His chosen people. Peter says, our baptism saves us and brings us into the bond with God.  Baptism is not just a removal of sin but spiritually helps us to form a good conscience, to do right because we have eternal salvation through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We want to live rightly because of the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross, bringing us the promise of eternal life. And not just the salvation of our souls. The resurrection of Jesus is a sign of the covenant that we too, will live forever, body and soul with the Lord in heaven for eternity at the end of days. An ancient Scottish proverb reminds us that we will be dead for a long time, and we want to be in the right place for eternity.

Now we come to the baptism story of Jesus by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. After Jesus is baptized, He comes out of the water and the Holy Spirit descends upon Him in the form of a dove. God’s voice comes from heaven saying, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” I find it interesting that Jesus completed 22 miracles told in Mark’s Gospel, yet, before His baptism, Jesus has not done anything miraculous. He had not taught or preached, yet God is pleased with Him because Jesus is His Son, His beloved. God loves Jesus because He simply is His own.

When I was a boy, I used to love hearing my father’s voice call out to me. I loved my dad dearly, and I was proud to be his son. When I was outside playing with my friends at dinner time, I would hear my father’s strong and loving voice call out to me, “Mark, come inside. It’s time for dinner.” I would run from my friends to be by my father’s side. My father loved me because I was His own. And I love him because he was my father.

The Scriptures today tell me that we come from a long and interesting spiritual family line. From Adam and Eve, to Abrahan and Sarah, and Mary and Joseph, we have a great line of spiritual descendants. More importantly, Jesus tells us that He is our brother and Savior, God is our Father and Creator, and the Holy Spirit is our advocate and guide. Despite all the obstacles and challenges in this life, we truly have everything we need to live a wonderful, spiritual life and achieve our final destiny in heaven. We have Scripture and the sacraments, the angels and saints, our family and friends, and the church community of fellow believers. With God, we are never alone.

What does this story of the baptism of Jesus mean for us today? I imagine that if you are watching or reading this message, you are a baptized believer. At the sacrament of baptism, you were given a name, your parents and godparents agreed to raise you in the church, and we were welcomed with great joy in the Christian community. The priest or deacon poured holy water on our head and baptized us in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then we were anointed with blessed chrism oil in the name of Christ our Savior with the words, “God now anoints you with the chrism of salvation. As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.” Next, we were clothed with a white garment, and the priest or deacon proclaimed, “You have become a new creation and clothed yourself in Christ.” During this Lent, may we all recall the words of our baptismal sacrament. We are a new creation and indeed clothed with Christ on our journey toward eternal life in love and faithfulness. Amen.

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