Reflections for

Baptism of the Lord, Jan 07, 2018

Genesis 1:1-5; Psalm 29; Acts 19:1-7; Mark 1:4-11



A pane breaks into water as we enter death
and burial to imitate Christ. Faith is measured

this way, by one’s willingness to submit
to what one cannot comprehend. We rise up

as new creatures, but in what sense have we
shifted? In those seconds under water’s

smooth door, do our bodies lap over
this world’s edge to the next? Do the angels

who see us rejoice
to bear witness before we rise up, closing

the door between us? Our lives’ balance
on the wing of what we give up, yet desire.

A bird imitates, but is said to have no
perception. Yet some believe it was a bird

who plunged the primordial sea,
bringing mud to the surface to form the earth

we’re made from; their wings opening in the shape
of a cross, our fondest dreams of flight.

On Art

Baptism of Christ, by Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378–1455)

In 1401, Lorenzo Ghiberti won the competition held by the Arte di Calimala, the guild of importers and finishers of woolen cloth, to decorate the north doors of the baptistery in Florence. Baptism of Christ was one of 28 panels depicting scenes from the life of Christ. The baptistery was an especially important building for the Florentines, because the patron saint of the city was John the Baptist. Ghiberti’s bronze panel, although still in a medieval quatrefoil shape, is considered one of the earliest examples of Italian Renaissance art. Ghiberti selected the moment in the narrative when Christ is praying, the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit descended like a dove (Luke 3:21–22). Ghiberti portrayed the dove emerging out of the panel toward the viewer. This feature, along with the placement of Christ’s feet in the river believably covered by the water, is evidence of the advancements Italian Renaissance artists were making in depicting nature. Christ is posed in a stance used by classical Greek sculptors.


In the beginning

Everything in the world begins with a yes.
Clarice Lispecter

For Bishop Tom

In the beginning there is only Yes,
infinitesimal, infinite, invisible
seed sprouting in the swirling dark,
the slow integration, expanding,
extending, the sudden explosion
into light—baby, blossom, universe,
all beginnings are the same—and Yes
to a world begun before words where
nothing separates this from that, and
Yes to the senses alive before language,
bird song, leaf shadow, skin touching
skin, and Yes to Tom whose injured
brain erases speaking, reading, names,
but through hands cupped upon bent
heads, his unimpeded heart pours forth
with nothing to restrict the flow of Yes
in beginning and Yes in the end.

This is an updated version of the poem that appears in the print edition.


Saving the Original Sinner, by Karl W. Giberson

Karl Giberson offers a cultural history of the Bible's first human. It's an intriguing and unsettling story.


Revised Common Lectionary © 1992 the Consultation on Common Texts. Used by permission.