Saturday, January 10, 2009

Lectionary Ruminations: Scripture for Worship on January 11, 2009

There's a poll currently available on the side bar, regarding a possible change in schedule for this feature. Basically, it's been suggested that posting just the day before the Scriptures would be used in worship is too late to be useful for most readers. I'm open to changing the schedule, but the question becomes "to what?" One suggestion that's already been offered is Thursdays. I've mentioned in another context that I could continue doing them on Saturdays, but do them a whole week ahead of time rather than just the day before (if this were to be adopted, I'd do two entries during that first Saturday of the new schedule, so as not to miss a set of readings entirely). What do you think? As of the time I'm writing this (Friday afternoon), there are only three responses to the poll. Hardly a representative sampling. We need to hear your voice! But there's not much time left.

In the meantime, here are the passages for January 11, 2009, Baptism of the Lord Sunday (Year B). All links are to the TNIV via, but if you prefer another translation, feel free to use that instead (either with your own Bible, or via the drop-down menu at

Genesis 1:1-5
  • I've commented that the first Sunday of Advent is the beginning of the liturgical calendar, but it's hard to ignore the feeling like this is the first week when these verses are brought out. It may be worth noting that this passage is not used every year, and indeed is used in what the Revised Common Lectionary calls "Year B," (i.e, not "Year A"). Why do you think this particular Sunday was chosen for these verses?
  • Why do think this reading only takes us to the end of "the first day," rather than giving us more of the creation account?
Psalm 29
  • Oddly enough, this Psalm is used every year on this Sunday. Why do you think this passage is emphasized in this way?
Acts 19:1-7
  • In the Presbyterian tradition, not only do we tend to baptize infants, in addition to those adults who profess faith in Jesus Christ, but we also tend not to witness newly baptized Christians speaking in tongues and prophesying immediately afterward. What should we make of the fact that it seems to happen in this instance?
  • It is also common for Presbyterians to emphasize that there is "one baptism" (especially in light of the teachings from the book of Ephesians). It is implicitly suggested that John the Baptizer's baptism was not the same thing as the baptism we experience as Christians. Is there a contradiction here? Or is this distinction no different than, say, the "baptisms" of certain quasi-Christian groups (such as the Mormons) that are not recognized by most Presbyterian churches (note the language of W-2.3010 in the PC(USA) Book of Order)?
Mark 1:4-11
  • John also emphasizes a difference between the kind of baptism he performs and the one to be performed by Jesus. Yet, we in the Christian tradition, following the pattern of the apostles in Acts (as seen above), do use water. What do we think it means to be "baptized with the Holy Spirit"? Does this happen at the baptisms performed in our churches, or is this something separate?
  • This is one of the many passages of the Synoptic gospels where a slight difference may be found in the parallel versions. In this version, the voice of God is directed specifically to Jesus: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." Indeed, the language of Mark would seem to indicate that only Jesus saw or heard this message. Matthew's version says that "he (presumably Jesus, the immediate antecedent) saw the Spirit of God," but the voice from heaven is spoken in the third person: "This is my Son...." And Luke's version doesn't seem to indicate that Jesus was the only one that saw/heard in regard to the pronouns, but the voice from heaven is again specifically directed to Jesus alone. Are the differences important? What do you think happened? Did others see and hear God's activity in this event? Or did Jesus tell someone about it later (and if so, who and under what circumstances?)?


Viola Larson said...

B.W. When I wrote my article for Theology Matters on John Calvin and the Sacraments, I discovered that Calvin goes to great lengths to show that John's baptism was the same as Jesus' or the Church in general. I did not write about this in the article because I felt it would be too confusing for some and did not add to my goals.

But I think Calvin makes an important case, although sorry to say at the moment I can't remember how he laid out his case. And even if it was not the same I don't think it could be the same as Mormon's baptism since their God is not at all like the Christian God nor is their idea of salvation.

Mark Baker-Wright said...


How does Calvin deal with this passage?

Viola Larson said...

This is a long quote from Calvin's Harmony of the Gospels but it does explain:

"He uses ordinary forms of speech to magnify the glory of Christ, in comparison of whom he declares that he himself is nothing. The chief part of his statement is, that he represents Christ as the author of spiritual baptism, and himself as only the minister of outward baptism. He appears to anticipate an objection, which might be brought forward. What was the design of the Baptism which he had taken upon himself? For it was no light matter to introduce any innovation whatever into the Church of God, and particularly to bring forward a new way of introducing persons into the Church, which was more perfect than the law of God. He replies, that he did not proceed to do this without authority; but that his office, as minister of an outward symbol, takes nothing away from the power and glory of Christ.

Hence we infer, that his intention was not at all to distinguish between his own baptism, and that which Christ taught his disciples, and which he intended should remain in perpetual obligation in his Church. He does not contrast one visible sign with another visible sign, but compares the characters of master and servant with each other, and shows what is due to the master, and what is due to the servant. It ought not to have any weight with us, that an opinion has long and extensively prevailed, that John’s baptism differs from ours. We must learn to form our judgment from the matter as it stands, and not from the mistaken opinions of men. And certainly the comparison, which they imagine to have been made, would involve great absurdities. It would follow from it, that the Holy Spirit is given, in the present day, by ministers. Again, it would follow that John’s baptism was a dead sign, and had no efficacy whatever. Thirdly, it would follow, that we have not the same baptism with Christ: for it is sufficiently evident, that the fellowship, which he condescends to maintain with us, was ratified by this pledge.

Two points here I guess if Jesus' own baptism was to fulfill the righteousness we needed then John's baptism would need to be the same as ours. Also John is making a difference between the outward sign of baptism and the efficacy that belonged to the work of Christ.
I did not look at these verses when writing my paper; thank you for asking that was helpful to me in many ways.

I am not sure if you know but all of Calvin is at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

Viola Larson said...

There should be quotations after 'ratified by this pledge'.


The Meantime. I wonder if that were the topic what passages would we find? A Month and a half later, I find myself back on this website, and again-from a random search(irrelavent to what)My thoughts to Saturday before sermon is the best for posting and adiment and most fullfilling. The open question is "is there enough time to absorb comments to activate or open eyes before delivering a sermon

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