Devotional Thoughts Based on the Glory to God Hymnal
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
On Sunday, December 30, 1962, I was baptized by Rev. Marvin Hombree at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Union, South Carolina. On a weekday morning in October 1976, I was received into the membership of First Presbyterian Church in Boone, North Carolina. That day the pastor and two elders came to my apartment and we spoke about faith and baptism. As it was raining that morning, I told them that I was being baptized that time by sprinkling. Actually, in the Presbyterian tradition, baptism is administered only once and so I was baptized by immersion. Both modes of baptism are acceptable provided we are baptized with water and in the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
The text for today is Matthew’s account of Jesus’ baptism by John in the Jordan river. In as much as the text reads “just as he (Jesus) came up from the water,” we recognize that Jesus must have been immersed. Yet the amount of water used for baptism is not what is most important. As Jesus came up from the water, the heavens opened, and the Spirit of God descended like a dove and alighted on Jesus. God spoke: “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
Today’s hymn is an African American spiritual entitles “Take Me to the Water.” The first verse identifies with Jesus who came to John requesting to be baptized. “Take me to the water to be baptized.” Verses 2 and 3 are motives for seeking to be baptized – to express love for Jesus and to acknowledge Him as Savior. The fourth stanza expresses praise to God for this rite/sacrament.
O God, we thank You for the graceful water of baptism, for being cleansed of our sins and for being identified with Jesus. As we demerge from this sacrament, we are joined to Jesus’ family and become heirs of eternal life. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.