Baptism of the Lord

The Rev. Noel Bordador

I would like to start with a sincere greeting to all- Happy New Year!  I hope this year is better than 2010, and I wish you all many, many blessings! Speaking of New Year, I had a fantastic and- as others said- “insane,”  “crazy” start of the year! On New Year’s Day, I joined more than a thousand people take a plunge into the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean in Coney Island. You might ask - as others did: why did I want to do something like that. Why risk frostbite or hypothermia? In fact, while I was riding the train, I overheard a fellow who was on his way to Coney Island Polar Dip talking about the risk of death that could come from swimming in freezing waters.
            Well, as much as I enjoyed the plunge, it is not just about having crazy fun. Many of us, if not all of us, who took the plunge did so as part of a fundraising for Camp Sunshine. Located in Maine, Camp Sunshine provides a place of rest, emotional support, joy and hope to kids with life threatening illness and their families who come from all over the United States. Yes, we did have lots of fun on New Year’s Day, but we took that crazy plunge into the freezing Atlantic Ocean for the kids. While the scene on that beach was like one big party, it’s not all just about having fun for ourselves; it’s about caring for the lives of those kids who come to Camp Sunshine. What made that experience quite a marvelous one is to see so many ordinary people take a risk- risking their health, risking their lives- to make a difference in the life of a kid. We all wanted to start the New Year trying to do some little good for others, perhaps hoping to transform the life of at least one kid whose body and soul is ravaged by a serious illness.
            Today is the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. We read that the Son of God plunged into the waters of the Jordan. In that river, he plunged himself right in there with the people as one of them, God made human. In that beach party in the Jordan River, the God made human embraced his people who were gathered there. A good number of people there were a few curious onlookers, trying to find out what the commotion was all about. Some came to be cured of their diseases.  Many who came were also spiritually broken: those who were feeling lost and were looking for God; people who were feeling empty and were looking for some  meaning and hope in their lives. Present were people who lived lives of sin, thus hoping for redemption and salvation. John the Baptist called some of them a “nest of snakes,” “brood of vipers” (Matthew 3:7). Included in that crowd were, most probably, dishonest tax collectors, prostitutes, thieves, lepers, and criminals. While Jesus himself was without sin, he went into the waters and plunged himself in the midst of the people, taking Baptism and identified himself with the spiritually unclean. In the midst of that crowd of all kinds of people wading in the waters, the Son of God came out publicly and declared himself as One who loved them, loved them so much that he was ready to offer his whole life so that they might come to have life that God wanted them to have! Jesus’ Baptism was a public declaration that the Son of God became human so that he might come to work out a profound transformation in the lives of people in need of forgiveness and healing from whatever oppresses them – bodily, spiritually or emotionally. It must have been one big joyful and fun party in the River Jordan when the people saw with their own eyes the incarnation and personification of the redeeming love of God in Jesus!
            We, too, like Jesus, the Son of God, have been baptized; and through Baptism, we have been adopted as sons and daughters of God who has gifted us given with an eternal inheritance to share in the life his one and only begotten Son. But, this gift carried with it a certain responsibility. Just as at the Father acknowledge Jesus as his Son who came to offer his life for others so that the lives around him would be transformed, healed and redeemed, likewise, as adopted as sons and daughters of God in Baptism, we also imitate the Son of God by living our lives not solely for ourselves, but we live our lives also for others. We plunged into the waters of Baptism not only so that we might have our lives transformed by the grace of God, but that also through us, the grace of God might transform others whose lives we touch daily. In a few minutes, we will celebrate the renewal of our Baptismal Covenant. You will be reminded of the nobility of our calling as children of God. You will be reminded of the sublime calling as heirs of God’s Kingdom. At the same time, as you renew the Baptismal promises, God continues to invite us to live into the reality of our calling to bear the power of God’s compassion, justice, mercy and love so that the lives of others might come to be touched and transformed through you. So today, ask yourself this question: what small thing of kindness and mercy could I do that would make a difference in the life of another? Then pray that you will have the courage to do that one thing and through you the power of God’s love is manifested.