Baptism, Grief, and Anointing


Do you remember your baptism? Do you remember the one who baptized you?

I was dedicated as an infant in the Community Mennonite Church in Markham, Illinois and baptized when I was 15 years old on the eve of my confirmation in the Reformed Church. Friends and family gathered at a congregation member’s above ground pool. My father, the pastor at the Reformed Church of Secaucus, and Elva Grace, an elder at the church, stood in the pool with me and baptized me in the name of the Holy Three in One. It was September and the water was cold as I was submerged three times. Afterwards we feasted together as a church family.

In this past Sunday’s lectionary, we remembered the death of John the Baptist as told in Mark’s gospel. It is a painful story to hear. Imagine what Jesus must have felt upon hearing the news. When the one who baptized you is murdered, how do you keep going?

This coming week the lectionary helps to answer that question.

In the wake of John’s death, as Jesus is trying to find a quiet place to grieve, it is a crowd of 5,000 or more people whose hunger reminds Jesus of the life, the bread, he is able to offer to speak hope in the face of great evil and opposition. Perhaps some of the people in that crowd had also been baptized by John. What is clear is that the crowd is not merely seeking something from Jesus, they are also offering something to Jesus: the opportunity to live out his baptismal call as God’s beloved.

And we, if we listen closely to one another and to the brokenness of this world, we, too, are anointed again and again with the cool waters of our baptism that wake us up and call us to speak boldly against the forces of death.

Remember the one who baptized you and give thanks. Remember the many people and experiences that have deepened your boldness in living out your baptism and rejoice.

Rev. Sarah Henkel is Cross-Cultural Catalyst for Hudson River Presbytery.

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One Response to Baptism, Grief, and Anointing

  1. revgeary says:

    Reblogged this on revgeary and commented:
    A few weeks ago Pastor Sarah shared some of these thoughts in a very moving sermon at White Plains Presbyterian Church. The grief of Jesus, and the weariness of his disciples, is the context for tomorrow’s sermon about loaves and fishes.


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