Baptism: into battle or just a bath?
The theme for worship today is the Baptism of Jesus. I've preached on it before. But this week I have been troubled by two competing images that were planted in my mind by Bob Shank: the cruise ship and the aircraft carrier. Everything about the cruise ship is devoted to creature comfort and everything about the aircraft carrier is devoted to launching planes into life-threatening battle.
Jesus' baptism launched him into the battle. Next week we will explore in worship his, and our temptations. Until the baptism and announcement and annointing for ministry, Jesus posed no threat to Satan. He was on a Holy Land Cruise, enjoying life in the Mideast and keeping his parents (most of the time) happy.
But once he was baptized, his identity and mission were fixed. He now took on evil in all its many shades and manifestations. And his life was no longer a pleasure cruise, but a mission.
Think of how ridiculous it would be to take a family vacation on an aircraft carrier; no pool, no game rooms no promenade deck, no deck chairs, no windows in rooms out of which to view the ocean. While I've never been on either one, I cannot image an aircraft carrier being a place for a lot of fun and comfort.
But worse, think of trying to fight a war from a cruise ship! Or worse, trying to land a jet on a cruise ship; catastrophe and carnage would be the only result, with no landing deck, no launching pistons, no weapons or electronic self-defense measures. It would be a total disaster.
I read in the NYT's yesterday an article about Pope Benedict's return to Germany this week and the declining conditions of Roman Catholicism in Germany and Europe as a whole. Barna's numbers are bleaker in Europe than in the USA. Yet Saturday's NBC evening news had a report on the growth of Islam in the USA that is exceptional. I'm not good at keeping numbers in my head, but I thought about the two news pieces and wondered: battle or cruise? Later this morning, when people arrive at the church I serve and other Christian churches, are they coming for a cruise ship buffet line of entertainment, comraderie, fellowship and good old fun or are they landing their aircraft on a flight deck for refueling, weaponry, targeting information and strategy? God help us if we bring out new shuffle board discs and fuss about the fruit bowls being low!