Vol 4:2 Mission and Baptism – Being Immersed in Humanity

This past Sunday our congregation focused on encountering God in our baptisms by exploring Jesus’ baptism as expressed in Luke’s Gospel. In Luke’s account we read of Jesus’ baptism by John in water followed by the Spirit of God being poured out upon him. But Jesus was baptized in another sense as well – a baptism that preceded both of these baptisms – a baptism into our humanity.

Jesus’ baptism into our humanity is more commonly known as the Incarnation – which give attention to during the seasons of Advent and Christmas, but more or less leave behind during the season of Epiphany. However, Jesus’ baptism or immersion into our humanity has deep ramifications for our participation with God in God’s redemptive mission.

Jesus’ baptism by John in water for the forgiveness of sin has long been regarded as Jesus identifying with us in our broken humanity and pointing to the necessity of our being set free from our bondage to sin and death. Jesus’ baptism in the Holy Spirit displays the outpouring of God’s Spirit on Jesus for his missional participation with God’s mission in the world. Yet, I have often discovered in reflecting on these baptisms of Jesus I often think of mission as participation in a task – a redemptive task, but a task nonetheless.

However, when I reflect upon Jesus’ baptism in our humanity through the incarnation of God – of God embracing and being immersed in our humanity, I see something more than the work of salvation being expressed, I see God’s love for humanity being expressed.

Partnered with the text from Luke this past Sunday, was also the lectionary text from Isaiah 43:1-7. Through the prophet Isaiah God reveals something of God’s character, God’s nature, God’s motivation for mission.

Through Isaiah we hear God saying that God has created us. But more than that – God has named us and called us his own. But more than that – God is with us. God is with us through the waters and through the fire, God is with us in all the difficult times of our lives, in all the joyous times of our lives. God is with us.

And God has created us, named us, and is with us so that we might be healed, restored, reconciled because God loves us – God says, “I love you.”

And God saying, “I love you,” brings a whole new dimension to understanding the baptism of the incarnation, of God being immersed within our humanity. God became one of us, set up his tent among us (as John puts it in John 1) to dwell among us, to walk with us, so that we might see and experience God’s presence and love for us.

And this gives shape to our mission as well. Our participating with God in God’s mission is not merely the carrying out of a redemptive task – it is participating with God in God’s love for you, for me, for the world – sharing in God’s sharing of God’s presence, God’s love. It is an immersion into humanity for the sake of loving humanity and setting us free from the bondage of sin and death.

As we participate with God in God’s mission – we are to be primarily shaped by God’s loving presence. And so we need to ask ourselves in regard to whom God leads us to and whom God brings to us, how is my life to become integrated with this person’s life? How am I to be immersed into their life, their culture, their day to day living, their humanity so that the Spirit is free to share through me God’s love for them?
In remembering our baptisms as we reflect on Jesus’ baptism, we are not only called to identify with Jesus in relation to his resurrection life, we are also called to identify with Jesus who identified with us by being immersed in our humanity. We can only be like Jesus in the world, participate with Jesus in God’s mission, by being immersed in the humanity, in the lives of those whom God brings into our lives.

Mission, then, is first and foremost a relational participation in the lives of our neighbors, in the lives of friends and families, but also in the lives of strangers, and even in the lives of our enemies. Our participation with God in God’s mission is not only for us to see where God is active in the world, but to see whom God loves, in whose lives God became immersed, so that we might immerse ourselves in the same lives, in the same humanity which God embraces and is immersed.

May our immersion in Jesus, also immerse us in all whom Jesus embraces.

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iMissional.org | Roland Kuhl