Apocalyptic Solidarity

Apocalyptic Solidarity

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Baptism of Jesus

“And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending from him: and there came a voice from heaven, saving “Thou are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Mark 1:10

    The baptism of Jesus tears through the border between heaven and earth. The Greek verb here is schizomenous, having to do with gnashing something open, ripping apart. God slashes open the sky. The is the beginning of an apocalypse.

        Imagine scenes from Left Behind books and movies: judgment unleashed from the heavens, fire and brimstone, cosmic devastation.

    But this apocalypse does not initiate an inferno. Instead, the Spirit of God swoops down–the Holy Spirit like the dove who returns to Noah on the ark with an olive branch, a sign of life. The Spirit is like a bird at the beginning of Genesis who hovers over the waters, who broods over the oceans. The apocalyptic arrival of the Spirit at Jesus’ baptism declares God’s solidarity with earthly life, God’s commitment to the human community. The sky opens up to reveal that this Jesus will embody the movement of God in the world, this one is God’s love made flesh.

    In my life, there have been two experiences of baptism. At age 12, on Mother’s Day, with so much excitement, wearing a new suit, I knelt in the local United Methodist Church, was baptized and confirmed. It was a wonderful day, I belonged and knew that God redeemed and accepted me no matter what.

    Moving forward ten years later on a dark late night walking down a rundown street in Kansas City, Missouri near St. Paul’s Seminary, a friend and I  observed a group of primarily black people, surrounding a barrel with a fire burning like a candle inside, and a black preacher standing up preaching a purely evangelistic Gospel to a large crowd of people.

    As my friend and I approach, the preacher turned his wild eyes  toward me, looking directly into them, and proclaimed, “You are destined to be a Light in the darkness, to those who one else sees, and you will suffer greatly, you will be broken,  but you will be blessed and bless thousands.”

    I still shiver, looking back, and feeling the Spirit pouring over me in baptism. To this day it is as re

    Baptism is not to be taken lightly but is a communion in this divine love, our union with Christ’s life. In baptism, we give ourselves to God’s love–to be “caught up” in God’s light in the world, in the words of Rowan Williams, “so that we may grow into wholehearted love of God by learning that God loves us as God loves God.”
    We are revelations of love, signs of God’s delight in creation.”


Fr. River Sims, sfw, D.Min., D.S.T.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


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