Preparing to renew my baptism vows in the River Jordan I passed a tiled plaque reminding people of the story of Jesus’ baptism as written in the book of Mark, Chapter 1 and verses 9-11. It started me thinking and I found myself wondering why Jesus had decided he should be baptised. After all, part of baptism is about wanting to express that we are sorry for the way we have lived which has hurt our own lives, the lives of others, or the wonderful world we live in. What had Jesus ever done to cause any hurt?
Then I wondered if baptism might be about commitment, and was Jesus showing he was fully committed to humankind? He wasn’t just visiting every now and then from the safety of Heaven and he didn’t walk around with an army of angels protecting him. He experienced tiredness, hunger, and pain. He knew what it was like to have friends who misunderstood him and let him down, sometimes when he most needed them. He had work to do which felt overwhelming sometimes and many people, especially some of the most important and powerful, resented what he was doing and began to speak against him. Eventually, as we know, he was arrested, brutally interrogated, and finally executed. His disciples would later come to understand that this was the only way God could deal with all that was wrong. Somehow, his death and his resurrection allows the power of love to overcome all powers of hate, all powers that cause harm, even if it might not look like that at times. At first all the disciples experienced was the crushing grief and fear and his execution felt like the end of all hope.
As I thought these things I saw another tiled plaque, with the same passage, written in a Roma language, and tiles with other languages. Jesus’ love is for all people, I thought, all nations and communities, and we should make sure that the church does all it can to share it. I looked at the Roma plaque and felt as if a gentle invitation was offered to me, ‘When you renew your baptism vows, will you also renew your commitment to love and serve my Gypsy, Traveller and Roma people?’