This Sunday we will hear the story of Jesus’ baptism and we will honor the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King was a minister and a man of strong beliefs. He worked for justice and equal treatment for all people. He opposed violence and believed that “Love is the greatest force in the universe.” Dr. King once said that “love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems.”
At the very beginning of service this Sunday, we will watch a video with a wonderful song sung by Alsion Krauss; “Down to the River to Pray” The video is filled with beautiful old photos of people gathering at a river to be baptized.
Later in the service Cindy Benson will read the story of Jesus’ baptism. Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. You probably remember that John the Baptist was the son of Elizabeth, Mary’s relative, and was only a little bit older than Jesus. When John was an adult, he decided to become a preacher. He lived very simply, and lots of people came out from the city to the wilderness to hear him speak. John baptized many people in the River Jordan. When a person asked to be baptized, John led them into the river and helped them dip their whole body under water. Dipping or “immersion” in the water is and was a sign that they had cleansed their hearts and washed away all that they had done wrong.
The people who listened to John were waiting for a Messiah, to be sent from God and save their people. They asked John if he was the Messiah. But John said: “I baptize you with water, but there is one coming later who can do more than I can.”
After many people had been baptized by John, Jesus also was baptized. While Jesus was praying, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit came down on him. The Spirit was in the form of a dove. Then a voice came from heaven and said, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
What would it be like to be baptized in a river? Here is a picture of Jesus’ baptism that you can color while you are watching and listening to the worship service, or when you have a quiet moment.
Today some people are baptized as adults, as Jesus was, and others are baptized as babies or young children. Many Christians still practice baptism by being dipped or immersed in the water. Sometimes they walk into the river, as the people in the video did, or they walk into a pool. Sometimes they are immersed in a large tub that is in the church, or their head is gently dipped into the water. Some people are baptized in the river or in church as infants and blessed by the minister, who pours a bit of water on their heads.
Talk to your parents or grandparents about baptism. If you were baptized, are there any pictures of that day, or are there pictures of you as a tiny baby? After a child is baptized the members of the church stand and promise to support the parents and the child as they learn about God’s love. This very important ceremony reminds the child and his or her family that they are all loved by God and that they are part of a church family that cares about them. Not all church services are the same, but all churches share God’s message of love.
Dr. King said “Love is the greatest force in the universe.” No matter how old we are, or what we do, we are never alone. God’s love is always with us. God’s love washes over us like water, and God’s light shines on us and shines inside us. When we share God’s love with others we make the world a better place.
I pray that in the week ahead you share your smiles and your love with others.
You are blessed to be a blessing to those around you.