Keyword Search

  • Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company
    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

Baptism of Our Lord, Cycle B (2015)

Baptism and new life! Baptism, Creation, Justification by Grace, and Sanctification are central to the development of the festival’s theme.

Psalm 29
This is a hymn attributed to David, though it is unlikely that he wrote it. The text sings of God’s control of all nature (vv. 3, 5-6, 8-10), even of storms, and yet we are assured that Yahweh blesses us with peace in the midst of storms (v. 11). The Psalm begins with a call to worship, where there is a reference to “heavenly beings,” which is a bad translation for what should be rendered in English “sons of mighty ones.” This insight suggests that in the temple era and perhaps in earlier periods Hebrews believed that there was a heavenly court of lower gods or semi-divine beings who acknowledged Yahweh as supreme ruler (Psalm 82:1, 6; Exodus 15:11; Deuteronomy 32:8).

The Lord seems to rule earth and waters with his word. The reference to “mighty waters” could be the Mediterranean Ocean or to the primordial waters Yahweh vanquished in creating (see First Lesson).

Of course the reference to his voice [gol] (vv. 2, 3, 4, 5, 7) could refer to his manifestation through thunder in thunderstorms (v. 7). The cedars of Lebanon noted in verse 5 refer to the principal mountains in Syria. Sirion noted in verse 6 is the Phoenicain name for Mount Hermon on the eastern border of Israel, and the wilderness of Kadesh in verse 8 is a reference to a desert in Syria. The Lord’s voice in this storm is not just powerful, but hadar in Hebrew (majestic, even beautiful) (v. 4). God’s rule over nature and over waters could be indebted to Canaanite mythology’s affirmation that Baal was enthroned over the conquered flood. Christians might interpret this reference as a prophetic reminder of his use of water in baptism to proclaim his word and will. The Psalm concludes with petitions that the Lord may give strength to and bless his people (v. 11).

Application: Sermons on this Psalm can focus on God’s providential rule overcoming chaos the depths of life, how he even uses water in creation (Evolutionists note that life first developed in water) and in Baptism to strengthen and bless his people. Creation and baptism are doctrines that are emphasized.

Genesis 1:1-5
Like all five books of the Pentateuch, this Book of Origins is probably the product of several distinct literary traditions. This one is just comprised of three strands: (1) J, a ninth/tenth-century BC source, so named for its use of the Jahweh or Yahweh (translated “Lord”); (2) E, an eighth-century BC source named for its use of the divine name Elohim; and (3) P or Priestly source, dated from the sixth century BC. This lesson is part of the creation story (the first three days) provided by the P strand. In creation God is said to master the primordial depth [choshek, literally "darkness"] with light [or] (vv. 2-3), much like the light/energy of the big bang is said to have been the source of all things in the universe. Creation out of nothing is presupposed in this verse. The world here is said to originate from watery depths [mayim]. This link between life and water nicely fits the theme of baptism and also with Evolutionary Theory’s findings that all like emerged in and from water. Reference made to the ruach of God active in creation may be translated the “wind” or “Spirit” of God (v. 2). God’s word is the agent of creation (vv. 3-5). The fact that there is a similar verbal pattern throughout this account, on each day of creation there is a divine command, result, and God’s approval, suggests Hebrew poetry’s use of parallelism rather than rhyme. This observation has led some scholars to suggest that the Priestly version of the creation story might have had its origins in worship, as hymns.

Application: A sermon on this lesson would aim to clarify God’s consistent use of water (in Baptism and in Creation). This is an opportunity to deal with either of these doctrines. Attention could also be given to what this life we are given looks like (doctrines of Humanity or Sanctification) or even ecology (Social Ethics).

Acts 19:1-7
We are again reminded that this book is the second installment of a two-part history of the church traditionally attributed to Luke, a physician and Gentile associate of Paul (Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 24). Along with Luke, the author’s intention was to stress the universal mission of the church (Acts 1:8), which entails special attention to and appreciation of the ministry of Saint Paul. The lesson is an account from the early stages of Paul’s third missionary journey. We have described in these verses part of the apostle’s mission in Ephesus, the capital of the Roman province of Asia, located on the west coast of modern Turkey. Paul is said to be following the ministry of the Jew Apollos (v. 1) who was a follower of the way [hodos] (Christianity), though Apollos had only known of John the Baptist’s baptism (18:24-28). The disciples Paul encounters seem to have been Christians who had not yet received Christian baptism or were just followers of John the Baptist. Those baptized in Ephesus with John’s baptism by Apollos had not yet received or heard of the Holy Spirit (vv. 2-3). Paul notes that John only offered a baptism of repentance [Baptisma metanoias] to prepare for Jesus. The Ephesians then receive a baptism in Christ’s name (vv. 4-5). At their Baptisms, Paul lays hands on these Ephesians followers of the way, and they receive the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues [glossa] (vv. 6-7).

Application: This text affords opportunity to make clear that in baptism the Holy Spirit is active and is given to the baptized. Preachers can help the faithful recognize that all those baptized are Spirit-filled (Sanctification).

Mark 1:4-11
We return again to the gospel for this church year, the first of the synoptic gospels to be written. This book was perhaps the source of other gospels, probably based on oral traditions of the passion narrative and accounts of Jesus’ sayings (the so-called Q-source). Likely written prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, this anonymous work is traditionally ascribed to John Mark, perhaps referred to as an associate of Paul (Acts 12:12-25; 15:37; Colossians 4:10) or as Peter’s scribe (1 Peter 5:13). Some speculate that the original audience was the church in Rome (especially Gentiles), as it presumes readers unfamiliar with Jewish customs and Palestinian geography (see 7:2-4, 31), but it also could have been written for Palestinian Christians.

This lesson is a report of the ministry of John the Baptist (vv. 4-8) and of Jesus’ baptism by him (vv. 9-11). John’s attire and diet remind the people of the nomadic existence during the exile of or Elijah’s appearance (v. 6; cf. 2 Kings 1:8; Leviticus 11:22). As we have previously noted, many Jews at this time believed that Elijah’s return would mark a sign of the end times (Malachi 4:5). John’s location in the wilderness (v. 4) is a fulfillment of the prophecy of the messenger noted in Isaiah 40:3. John proclaims a baptism of repentance [Baptisma metanoias] (v. 4) and the coming Messiah (the mightier one) (v. 7). (This was a set of themes linked in first-century Jewish literature in the Dead Sea Scrolls [The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered, pp. 230-231]). He claims to have performed a baptism of water, while the powerful one to come will baptize with the Holy Spirit (v. 8). This gift of the Spirit was also associated with the end times (Joel 2:28-32). Jesus himself seems to recognize that the baptism he would offer are not identical with John’s (2:18).

Much less detail in Mark’s account of John’s preaching is given than is the case in the other synoptic gospels (Matthew 3:7-10; Luke 3:7-14). This is in character with Mark’s gospel that is more action-focused, recording fewer words of Jesus than the other gospels. No reference is made to the people confusing John with Christ or Elijah, like in Luke (3:15) or John (1:19-22). The story progresses with John baptizing Jesus in the Jordan (v. 9). Nothing significant about Jesus’ person is noted, save God’s word about him.

As usual in Mark, things happen “immediately” [euthus (a sign of the end times). As Jesus emerges from the water the heavens are torn apart [skidzomenous], an apocalyptic image signifying divine disclosure. The Spirit is received, and a voice from heaven proclaims him the “beloved [agapetos] Son” [huios] (vv. 10-11). The account here and the words of the voice from heaven parallel Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 43:1. The Spirit descending on Jesus is a fulfillment of messianic prophecy in Isaiah 61:1. Except for the immediacy (eschatological emphasis) of the heavenly events, the account is closely paralleled in the other gospels. The difference is that in Matthew (3:14-15), John tries to avoid performing the baptism, claiming that he should be baptized by Jesus, while in John’s gospel alone (1:29-36), John testifies who Jesus is.

Application: A sermon on this lesson could distinguish Christian baptism, focusing on the connection between the Holy Spirit and Baptism (see Application for Second Lesson). Or the lesson’s stress on Eschatology could be highlighted, leading to sermons that emphasize that those baptized with a Christian baptism have radically been separated from the past and so have a fresh start in life (Sanctification).

Leave a Reply

  • Get Your FREE 30-day Trial Subscription to SermonSuite NOW!
    Chris Keating
    The Double-Dog Dare Days of August
    August’s lazy, hazy dog days quickly became a deadly double-dog dare contest between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un, the supreme leader of North Korea. Both nations have been at odds with each other for nearly 70 years. During his working golf vacation in New Jersey last week, President Trump responded to North Korea’s rhetorical sword-rattling by launching a verbal preemptive strike of his own.
         Call it the Bedminster bombast, or the putt that rocked Pyongyang. But the duel between the two countries is more than fodder for late-night comedians. It’s a deadly standoff with history-changing repercussions.
         There is no vacation from matters of national security, or the orations of war. Indeed, much of the war of words between Washington and North Korea seems to confirm Jesus’ counsel in Matthew: “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” The contrasts between these barbed exchanges and the biblical understanding of peacemaking offers an intriguing opportunity to hear Jesus’ words in a world filled with double-dog (and even triple-dog) dares....more
    Feeding The 5,000
    The assigned Gospel text for this week skips over a couple of sections in Matthew's story. Matthew 14:34-36 cites Jesus' journey to Gennesaret. The crowds of people recognized him immediately and all of the sick came to him for healing. Just a touch of Jesus' garment brought healing to many. The crowd in Gennesaret recognized Jesus. They came to him in their need....more
    Wayne Brouwer
    Religious balkanization
    One dimension of religious life we have in common across faith traditions and denominational lines is the incessant divisiveness that split our seemingly monolithic communities into dozens of similar yet tenaciously varied subgroups. A Jewish professor of psychology said of his tradition, "If there are ten Jewish males in a city we create a synagogue. If there are eleven Jewish males we start thinking about creating a competing synagogue."...more
    C. David McKirachan
    Jesus Is Coming, Look Busy
    Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
    I had a parishioner who would walk out of the sanctuary if he saw a djembe (African drum) out in front to be used in worship.  I asked him about it, in a wonderfully pastoral manner, and he told me that things like that didn’t belong in worship.  I said that it was in the bible to praise God with pipes and drums (I think it is).  He told me he didn’t care what the Bible said, he knew where that thing came from and he wouldn’t have it.  I asked him why things from Africa would bother him.  He told me that he knew I was liberal but that didn’t mean he had to be.  I agreed with him but cautioned him that racism was probably one of the worst examples of evil in our world and I thought he should consider what Christ would think of that.  He asked me who paid my salary, Christ or good Americans....more
    Janice Scott
    No Strings Attached
    In today's gospel reading, Jesus seemed reluctant to heal the Canaanite woman's daughter. He told her that he wasn't sent to help foreigners, but only his own people, the Chosen Race. The words sound unnecessarily harsh, but perhaps this is an interpretation unique to Matthew, for this story only appears in Matthew's gospel, which was written for Jews....more
    Arley K. Fadness
    Great Faith
    Object: Hula Hoop or circle made out of ribbon, twine or rope
    What an amazing morning to come to church today. I am so glad to see you and talk to you about a wonderful story from the bible. Let me begin by showing you this circle. Now let's get into this circle. (Physically, all move into the circle) It's fun for us all to be together in this circle. We don't want anyone to be left out. To be left out is to be sad. To be kept out is even more sad and painful....more

Authors of
Lectionary Scripture Notes
Norman A. Beck is the Poehlmann Professor of Theology and Classical Languages and the Chairman of the Department of Theology, Philosophy, and Classical Languages at Texas Lutheran University
Dr. Norman A. Beck
Mark Ellingsen is professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Dr. Mark Ellingsen