Glimpses of the Kin-dom: Part One

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Think for a moment about the place you were baptized if you can remember or were shown after the fact. Imagine what it looks like. For some it may be a baptistry, a pool filled behind the choir or to the side of the altar. It may even have been a cattle trough, swimming pool, or kiddie pool. Maybe you were baptized by sprinkling or pouring and remember a simple wooden pillar like structure holding a small, shallow bowl of water. Some were even baptized outdoors in streams, rivers, ponds, or lakes. Each of us who have been baptized likely remember or have been told as some time or another about the place where they were baptized. 

Did you know or have any idea what happened in that moment? Were you told later, maybe during Sunday school or confirmation? Did it sink in, did it really register? 

I think of my baptism as a teenager, and I know I had no idea what it really meant. I made a “profession of faith” when I was fifteen or so. I was told that if I wanted to be a real Christian, a true follower of Jesus, I had to be baptized. I was shown several bible verses and basically told if I didn’t get baptized, I was being disobedient to God. So, I had this rather odd baptism where the associate pastor (all of 5’3” inches tall in heeled shoes) had to reach up and baptize all 6’1” of me without being dragged into the water himself. I’m sure it was comical and when it was all over, nothing seemed any different than before I was baptized. It wasn’t until years later, when I became a Methodist, that baptism made sense to me. But we’ll get to that in a minute. 


In the story Matthew tells us, Jesus has gone through his growing up years at the end of chapter two and is stepping into the story again alongside John the Baptizer. John has been preaching and has gathered a sizable group of disciples, enough so to make the Pharisees and Sadducees interested. Though he gives them an earful, calling them a “brood of vipers” but he doesn’t completely turn them away.[1] He simply warns them that if they come to baptism without repentance there will be consequences and repercussions. 

Into this little drama steps Jesus. Something in John recognizes the gravitas of the moment. John shies away from being the one to baptize Jesus, but Jesus insists. “Let it be so now, for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.”[2] John gives in and agrees to baptize Jesus. As Jesus rises from the water, “the heavens were opened to him, and he saw God’s Spirit descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from the heavens said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”[3]

There are a couple of things to notice here. First, what Jesus does, he does to live into a just way of living and being. I think this is what is meant by the word righteousness in our text. I think this is the reason our baptismal/membership vows have these two lines in them…

To renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of the world, and repent of their sin;

To accept the freedom and power God gives them to resist evil, injustice, and oppression;[4]

Baptism is a starting point in answering our call to living a just life. It is saying in effect, “This symbolic act serves notice of my intent to live as one who follows Jesus in his life, ministry, death, and resurrection.” Second, I think Jesus’ baptism speaks to the role of the Holy Spirit in our life. It is at Jesus’ baptism that the Holy Spirit comes upon him. Notice not only here, but in each of Jesus’ baptismal story in the gospels, the Holy Spirit’s arrival in Jesus’ life is at baptism. The Holy Spirit arrives first before each of the temptation stories. To me this signifies the importance of the Holy Spirit in our lives to strengthen us to walk through the difficult circumstances we find ourselves in. The third thing I notice is God’s pleasure in Jesus’ receiving this baptism and the Holy Spirit. It becomes not only an expression of belonging but one of identification. “This is my beloved child,” God speaks into the moment. When we are baptized in the church, our United Methodist belief is 

“In the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, “we are initiated into Christ’s holy church, … incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation and given new birth through water and the Spirit,” the Introduction to the Baptismal Covenant says. “All this is God’s gift, offered to us without price.”[5]

All those who receive the sacrament in a United Methodist congregation are baptized members of the Church universal, the denomination of The United Methodist Church, and their local congregation, regardless of age.

In the moment of Jesus’ baptism, God acknowledges a holy acceptance of Jesus turning toward God, accepting the call “to renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of the world, and repent of their sin; to accept the freedom and power God gives them to resist evil, injustice, and oppression.”[6] In that moment, Jesus is not only called but Jesus belongs.


I think there are some questions this prompts us to ask ourselves,

  • Am I living into a just way of living and being?
  • Do I acknowledge and accept the Holy Spirit’s place in my life and seek to live into that?
  • Do I recognize and accept God’s pleasure at my inclusion in the universal, denominational, and local church?

One thing I notice about our membership and our inclusion in all these things is that God is the only gatekeeper. The actions of the individual are to live into a just way of living and being and the rest is the work of God and God’s spirit. Which leads to another set of questions, 

  • Am I keeping people out by my actions and witness? 
  • Am I driving away people who might otherwise want to be here because of my discomfort, my preconceptions, my protecting a personal tradition that doesn’t belong in the church?

Each of us should ask ourselves these questions and give account to God, our fellowship, and ourselves for our actions. What will you do with it?

[1] Matthew 2:7

[2] Matthew 2:15

[3] Matthew 2:16-17