Devotional for the Baptism of our Lord, January 7, 2018


Devotional for the Baptism of Our Lord, January 7, 2018

based upon Mark 1: 4-11

If you have ever been to Sea World then you know that there are certain sections in the seating that they always give you fair warning about.  If you sit too close – in fact, if you sit anywhere in the entire front half – at what used to be the Shamu show, you will certainly get wet.  And not only wet, you will get totally soaked.  Which is why they call that area the Soak Zone.

I remember going to the Shamu show at Sea World in San Diego.  Shamu and several of his friends lined up around the perimeter of the pool and then, with their heads down in the water, used their flukes to totally splash the people in the stands.  You just know that those whales were totally enjoying it.  But many of the people were not enjoying it.  Not only because they were now soaked to the bone and the water is very cold, salty, and smells like fish, but also because of all their non-waterproof and expensive camera and video equipment.  

But then there were the children and young people who had gathered right at the edge of the pool in the hope and expectation that they will get soaked.  They squealed with joy as the water drenched them.  Unlike the people with the expensive camera equipment, they took great delight in their cold, wet, salty, and smelly soaking by Shamu.

Through our baptisms, we have been called by God to Living in the Soak Zone.  And yet I notice that a lot of people want to avoid the Soak Zone, just like at Sea World.  What does it mean to live in the Soak Zone?  What all is involved with being baptized into Jesus Christ?  The apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, “We were buried with Him by baptism into death, so that, as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” (6: 4)  What does that mean?  What is it like Living in the Soak Zone?  I can think of three things.

First, LIVING IN THE SOAK ZONE – BEING BAPTIZED – IS ABOUT BEGINNING ANEW.  It is about having a fresh start.  According to the apostle Paul, we emerge from baptism to “walk in newness of life.”  Baptism transforms us.  Having been baptized, we are to think, speak, act, and live in ways that represent Christ to the world.  Living in the Soak Zone – baptism – transforms selfishness into generosity, prejudice into love, and hesitancy into boldness.  Does all that happen the moment we are baptized?  No.  But these are the kinds of things that happen to us as we continue to live in the Soak Zone.  The Christian life is an ongoing transformation in which we continue to be shaped by the presence of Christ within us.

Second, LIVING IN THE SOAK ZONE – BEING BAPTIZED – IS ABOUT BEING INCLUDED.  Through our baptisms we are included in the body of Jesus Christ.  Through our baptisms we receive a love that draws us in and holds us together.  It is a love that enables us to disagree without being disagreeable.  The waters of baptism are not only the means for the cleansing of sin. They also have the power to break down barriers between people.  Living in the Soak Zone, we share a common relationship with our Lord Jesus, in which old divisions and old designations no longer apply.  

Third, LIVING IN THE SOAK ZONE – BEING BAPTIZED – IS ABOUT BEING CALLED TO SERVICE.  With baptism comes the Holy Spirit, and with the Holy Spirit come gifts that are to be used in the service of God.  Too many view ministry just as something that the pastor and the other paid church staff do.  But according to the Bible, ministry is the work in which all baptized believers are to become involved in response to the call of God and Christ’s claim on our lives.  Baptism marked the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, and baptism also marks our call into ministry.  When we enter the household of God, we do so with the belief that God has called each one of us to some particular work that will utilize our gifts for building up the body of Christ and for making a better world.

And so, like the people at the Shamu show, we get a rather thorough soaking from the Holy Spirit at our baptisms.  Some will decide that they are not particularly fond of cold, salty, smelly water.  Especially if it costs them something – like their lives.  Which is a whole lot more costly than just expensive camera and video equipment.  And so they will do their best to move as quickly as they can out of the Soak Zone.  

Others will be like the children and young people, who gather at the edge of the pool and take great delight in being thoroughly soaked.  Even though the water is cold and salty and smells like fish, they will take great delight in following Jesus – even when following Him will take them out of their comfort zone into the Soak Zone of the Holy Spirit.

So how about you?  How do you feel about having been placed in the Soak Zone through your baptism?  Do you want to get out of it – and as quickly as possible?  Or do you take great delight in knowing that God is your Father, who gives you new beginnings, who has included you in His family, and who has called you into His service?

Dennis D. Nelson

President of the Board and Director of Lutheran CORE