From the vicar
The Baptism of Christ has presented a quandary for many over the years.
Looking back with a Christian understanding of baptism commentators have asked
why Jesus needed to be baptised at all. If baptism is a rite of initiation what
was he being initiated into? If baptism is for the washing away of sins why did
the sinless one need to be baptised at all? Christian baptism contains both
these elements so the questions are justified.
For those in the early centuries of the Church who were known as
adoptionists this was the moment when it happened. Jesus the man was baptised
in the Jordan and became Jesus the Son of God. For them the words from the
synoptic gospels, ‘Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased’ were the
proof they needed that God had chosen this man and sent his Spirit upon him.
The Church rejected this belief along with the opposite view held by the
docetists who denied that Jesus was human at all, just the pre-existent Word in
some sort of human disguise.
So why was Jesus baptised? In order to begin to answer this question it
is necessary to consider what John the Baptist might have been doing and how
baptism was likely to have been understood at that time. It is not necessary to
be certain that the Baptist had been part of the Qumran community to realise that
he had been influenced by their strict preparation for the coming of the
Messiah. For this group baptism or ritual washing according to the practices of
the Jews in general was not for the remission of sins, which was something only
sacrifice could effect, but for the purposes of moral purification and, in the
context of the expectation of that time, preparation for some great event. As
John the Baptist saw himself preparing the way for the coming of the Messiah
(Isaiah 40: 3) it is easy to argue that this was the purpose of the baptism
which he administered. Jesus would much more easily have been able to submit to
something which would associate him with the preparation for the coming Kingdom
The baptism of John and his contemporaries therefore differs from
Christian baptism significantly in that it was not associated with conversion
as only Jews were baptised and it was repeatable. Baptism was used at Qumran on
entrance into the covenant of the community and so could indeed represent a new
beginning. That would be particularly appropriate for Jesus at the outset of
his public ministry.
Two final comments need to be made. The first is about variant textual
readings which connect Luke 3: 22 quoted above more closely with Psalm 2: 7,
‘Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.’ This is usually understood as
a psalm describing the enthronement of the Messiah/ King and would fit well
with the declaration of Jesus’ identity made by the Baptist especially in St.
John’s account. The second concerns the anticipated baptism by the Spirit (Luke
3:16) which is described as actually happening to Jesus. In the Qumran
documents the messianic age is seen as being superseded by the age of the holy Spirit
so it would be natural if both were seen to be fulfilled in Jesus.
Simplistic answers will not do when considering these texts and the
Baptism of Christ. A great many expectations and ideas are woven together and
they help us to understand and celebrate this wonderful event. The adoptionists
took a too simple line and erred and over the years many faithful Christian
souls have been perplexed by Jesus’ acceptance of baptism and become rather
embarrassed about it. For the purposes of the celebration though, it is
sufficient to allow the scriptures to speak for themselves. Without any
embarrassment we may rejoice!
Pray for strong
leadership within the Church of England so that together we may present a
faithful witness to the nation and the world.
Wednesday 3rd January, 10.00am MU Corporate Communion
Sunday 7th January The Epiphany of Our Lord
Wednesday 10th January, 10.00am The
Baptism of the Lord
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2018
January, 10.30am Office
at St. Peter’s, Bushey Heath
January, 10.30am Office
at St. Andrew’s, Bushey Heath
January, 10.30am Office at St.
January, 10.30am Eucharist
at St. James’s, Bushey
January, 10.30am Office
at Bushey and Oxhey Methodist Church
January, 6.30pm Evening
Prayer at St. Paul’s, Bushey
17th January, 8.00pm Parochial
Church Council meeting in the Parish Hall
of the Society in North-West London
The Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul
Thursday 25th January, 8.00pm
St. Mary the Virgin, Kenton
by a meeting to discuss holding further joint services
28th January The Presentation of Our Lord
a conversation at the last PCC meeting, the vicar would like to receive your
opinion on the provision of another BCP, 9.30am Sung Communion at some point
during the month, perhaps on the 4th Sunday. Your thoughts would be
the registers –
15th December Christine Murcia (aged 62 years)
you be interested in joining a Book Club? Dayner Rowe (Family Service) is
planning to set one up possibly meeting monthly in the Parish Hall. Expressions
of interest please to Father Andrew.
The Red Trust, Bushey
the visit of local representative Alison Saunders to some of the harvest events
last October, the PCC have agreed to host a box for donations of food towards
the food bank which the charity runs, along with its other activities in
support of the local community in Bushey. Please feel free to contribute to
this if you wish. The box can be found at the back of church by the sound
St Luke’s Church,
Langley Way, Watford
February 2018, 9.30am – 3.30pm
This course will
interest and equip anyone who as a disciple of Christ wants to know more about
caring for people who have been bereaved, whether within the church or wider
Tea and coffee
will be served throughout the day, and you are asked to bring a packed
lunch. The course is provided free of
information from Christine Massey: email:
Tel: 01923 244188.
To book a place go
to the following website: www.stalbans.anglican.org/ministry/find-a-course
Friday 9 February 2018
Andrew Burton SSC, a priest of the Society. (020 8950 1424). Usual day off
Mr. Peter Mould (020 8428 8307); Mrs. Anne Swerling (020 8950 8923).
prayer request to our Prayer Line on 07939 379018. Private prayer will be
offered for 2 weeks.