A reflection on the readings for “The Baptism of Jesus” from the Gospel of Luke (3:15-17, 21-22)
Our reading this morning conveys a key theme in the Gospel of Luke – prayer. Mary Oliver, one of my favorite poets, helps us understand how to pray
It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak. (Mary Oliver ~ Thirst)
Oliver reminds us to keep it simple, patch a few words together, don’t try to be too elaborate, give thanks and let there be some silence so God can speak too.
Jesus, after his baptism went off to pray, something Jesus does a lot of in the Gospel of Luke. Prayer is central to who Jesus is and how he lives out his ministry. Prayer is central to our faith life too and how we are invited to live out our various ministries.
In the Bible Jesus gives us a simple prayer to pray, we call it The Lord’s Prayer. There are two versions of it in our Book of Common Prayer which you can find if you turn to page
There are also two versions of the Lord’s Prayer found in the Bible – one is in the sixth chapter of Gospel of Matthew and it goes like this:
“ Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; (Matthew 6:9-14)
And, one in the Gospel of Luke and it goes like this:
(Jesus) said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” (Luke 11:1-4)
The versions of the Lord’s Prayer that we have in the Book of Common Prayer are similar, one to the Gospel of Matthew – which we use most of the year and call it the traditional version – and the other to the Gospel of Luke – which we use in the summer and call it the Contemporary version. Both versions are based on how Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray.
N.T. Wright, a Bishop of Durham in the Church of England and a New Testament scholar says this about the Lord’s Prayer: “(it)is not so much a command as an invitation: an invitation to share in the prayer-life of Jesus himself…..”[i]
All Prayer is an invitation into the inner life of the Divine one and brings with it an opportunity to experience something of that divine life. Prayer is an invitation into mystery and the idea that there is something at play in the world that is bigger than we are. This something we call God – the divine source of all creation, the one who brought forth all life and called it good. We, being made in the image of that divine source are made good to do good.
For Christians baptism is the invitation into the life of Christ. An invitation into prayer, an invitation into an understanding of life that helps us make meaning out our lives, helps us navigate the challenges of life, a life of community and faith, a life in which we are never alone. In baptism we are given the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the gifts which become our strengths, the gifts which define our lives. Jesus’ gift is teacher – he teaches us how to live as God desires, how to live as Jesus did, a life of boundless compassion, love, mercy, and grace for all people, all creation.
Mary Oliver has something to say about the mystery of life and prayer in another poem, The Summer Day. Here is a portion of that poem:
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,….
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Today we have come to baptize Lexi into her new life in Christ. As a parish family we have been praying for Lexi and her parents and godparents, for many months – all during the adoption process. Now today we join our prayer with her prayer and offer our lifelong commitment to nurture her in her life in Christ. Every person we baptize we embrace with delight their potential, their new life in Christ, and we look forward to finding out just:
“What is they will do with their one wild and precious life!”
Let us now prepare to welcome “L” into her new life…