Yesterday was the first Sunday in Epiphany. The prescribed Gospel lectionary text concerns Jesus’s baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist (Matthew 2:1-12). You’ll recall that John baptized with water, and he announced the coming of One who would baptize with fire and Spirit. When Jesus comes to be baptized, John is hesitant, but Jesus insists that his baptism is so that all righteousness be fulfilled.
In each of the gospels Jesus’ baptism signals the beginning of something remarkably new. Aside from John, there are three others present in this scene: Jesus who is being baptized, the Father who speaks his blessing, and the Spirit who is hovering over the water and descending on the Son. There in the midst of the River Jordan, the gospel writers foreshadow Jesus’ coming judgment and identify him as the One from whom redemption and life flows. The gospel writers want us to know that everything has changed.
In Revelation, John links Jesus’ baptism with another event in the story of the people of God: an event in which judgement took place, redemption was secured, and everything changed, and that event was the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt. Having passed through he judgment of water, delivered to the far side where their promise awaits, Miram and Moses led the people in worship.
Helping his congregations understand the outcome of the trials in which the people find themselves, John writes in Revelation 15:2-3a,
And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb,
This sonnet is entitled, The Sea of Glass Mingled with Fire, and you may listen to me read it via the player below.
In primordial time in the timeless wait
The Spirit hovers over the darkening deep,
God sings in command, light bursts through the gate
Day springing with beauty and glorious heat.
In hatred and spite Pharaoh sets Israel free;
Though sheltered in glory ‘neath fire and cloud
They despair and are pinned between army and sea,
And find rescue through trial where others had drowned.
Old and new Baptizers on Jordan’s banks meet;
John, washing with water, beholds Fire’s face;
The Righteous submits all just fullness to keep
To shower the blessing of favor and grace.
And there on His shore we’ll sing by stilled seas
Washed in New Creation, at peace eternally.
© Randy Edwards 2017.
This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.