Mark’s account of Jesus’ baptism is spare. But there is this: Jesus is baptized in a river, in the wilderness. The baptisms where I preside have been relatively tame. Still, the danger of the river is present.
I know of a congregation that, for many years, provided a “living nativity pageant” in its community. The church is in the center of town and has an expansive front lawn. On a certain December Sunday afternoon each year, it would fill that lawn with live sheep and goats and donkeys, costumed shepherds and wise men, a gaggle of angels, an innkeeper, a manger, and, of course, the holy family.
Following a speech by Nadia Bolz-Weber at the First Baptist Church in Madison, Wisconsin, a woman in tears spoke up to say that she was unable to forgive herself, because she had been told many times she was unforgivable. Bolz-Weber, widely known as a tattooed, salty tongued Lutheran pastor from Denver, responded: “Maybe for as many times as you’ve been told that, you need to hear that God is gracious, and merciful, and slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and loves you as you are. And as a called and ordained minister of the church of Christ, and by Christ’s authority, I declare to you the entire forgiveness of all of your sins.” The congregation responded, “Amen” (Wisconsin State Journal, February 2).