Starting Blocks

This Sunday as we begin a new year we’re going to start a new series: Starting Blocks.  Many of us want to make changes in a new year, most of us struggle to deliver.
So we’re looking at the start of Jesus’s ministry to see how he overcame common distractions and challenges at the beginning that would have derailed any one of us.  If we could get out of the starting blocks in January as well as Jesus did in his first months of public ministry, we’ll be on our way to making the changes we want to make in our lives.
We’re picking up this week as Jesus’s cousin, John “the Baptist” (or “baptizer”), is going ahead of Jesus.  John is a bit of a crazed prophetic character in the wilderness, proclaiming that people everywhere should repent.
The crowds are desperate for a genuine word from God. JTB has just that. They flock to him.
They are eager to join in what God’s doing. So they get baptized. Lots of them.
This is an appropriate place for us to camp out at the start of a new year. Baptism is the mark of a new start, a new beginning. Throughout the New Testament it’s described as a new birth into a new family--God’s family.  This baptism is a public seal on the inward reality of full surrender to the Lordship of Christ in our lives, union with Christ, and a new citizenship into the kingdom of light.
Martin Luther kicked off the Protestant Reformation back in the 16th century. He battled depression and physical ailments and often reported spiritual opposition and attack. In his darker moments, he was known to declare out loud “I have been baptized!”  A literal shout-out that re-oriented him around his relationship with God and that he reported was useful in warding off evil.
As we start a new year, we invite those of you who have been baptized to declare it out loud, maybe just to yourself. That the larger realities of your identity in God’s family might be the primary ones that you remain oriented around today and all of 2019 long.
And if you haven’t been baptized, we invite you to consider the difference that this kind of a new beginning might make in your life in 2019.
Try speaking “I have been baptized!” a couple of times out loud. How might God use that event in your life to help you enter into a new year full of joy and certainty as well as humility?