Homily for the first Sunday in Lent - Understanding baptism

Updated: Mar 3

On this first Sunday in the season of self-sacrifice called Lent we read of the covenant between God and Noah, which is the promise to never again destroy life on earth with water – a Great Flood – with the sign of that covenant being the rainbow.

That reading is then accompanied by one from Peter’s first epistle which said that Great Flood, being when Noah and his family was saved from the destruction, “prefigured” the baptism true Christians knew, which was the promise of baptism by the Holy Spirit.

Finally, the Gospel of Mark tells of Jesus going to the Jordan to be baptized, where John was dunking Jews in a cleansing by water. There, Jesus was baptized by the Holy Spirit and God spoke to Jesus like he spoke to Noah.

All of those readings should make one ask, “Have I truly been baptized?”

In the ritual practice of reciting in unison from the Prayer Book, in the Nicene Creed that states our beliefs, we clearly say, “We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.”

However, raise your hand if you have received that one baptism and have your sins forgiven.

<Look for raised hands.>

Peter clearly wrote that baptism was “not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” That says physical water was not used by the first Apostles, as a means for forgiveness of their sins. Peter confirmed what John the baptizer said, as far as another baptism by the Holy Spirit was the one to look for that had true impact of cleansing away sins.

Peter added that the baptism of which John prophesied was an “appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

All who are the resurrection of Jesus Christ, please stand.

<Look for true Christians standing.>

In the Nicene Creed, we Christians state our beliefs about God, our beliefs about the Son, and our beliefs about the Holy Spirit.

  • "We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen."

  • "We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father,"

  • "We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified."

I remember my wife’s brother telling us, before my wife entered seminary, how he could understand God and the Son, but no one had ever told him what the Holy Spirit was, so he could visualize it in his mind. Since we were in Italy on vacation at that time, I told him the painting on the ceiling of Sistine Chapel, of God reaching out to Adam [the Son] but not touching his hand, in between the two hands of God and the Son is a small gap. I said that is where an unseen spark connects the two. I told him that unseen link is the Holy Spirit. It is the union of God and Man.

He said that was the best he had ever had the Holy Spirit explained to him; but, I doubt he ever did what it takes to receive the Holy Spirit. I doubt he ever made an “appeal to God for a good conscience,” thus he never became “the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” where “Christ” is the union of God with Man. My wife's brother is not unlike most people … if not all. It is best [it certainly is easier] to not want to understand the Holy Spirit

Without the Holy Spirit, Jesus of Nazareth would have just been another Jewish guy of no consequence, which is how the leaders of the Temple saw Jesus of Nazareth.

The Holy Spirit is an unseen spark. Therefore, when one has it, no one can tell. Only the one(s) with it can tell.

An “appeal to God for a good conscience” means one must ask for that. To ask for that, it helps to understand what Peter meant.

The Greek words written by Peter are “syneidēseōs agathēs,” where those two words need to be understood individually, before combining them into one lump idea.

The word “syneidēseōs” means “consciousness, specifically one’s conscience,” where the word’s usage says “a persisting notion.” (Strong’s) The word is actually a combined form word, such that “syn” means “together with” and “eido” means “to know, see.” The combination results in a word that properly means: “joint-knowing, i.e. conscience which joins moral and spiritual consciousness as part of being created in the divine image.” (HELPS Word-studies)

That says one’s conscience is not oneself figuring some things out; but it is your soul being told by an additional spirit that comes from without. An idea or notion from without is then processed by a human brain. Think of this as the white angel that sits on your right shoulder, whispering into your right ear, while a red devil perches on your left shoulder, whispering into your left ear. They are the typical influences to do the right thing, versus to do the thing that most pleases self, which is usually the wrong thing.

Our conscience is then the Homer Simpson "Doh!" from realizing, "I shouldn't have done that!" It is also the "Aha!" that realizing, "I am glad I did that!" [Or, did not do that!] The "joint-knowing" means "conscience" follows paths that are both good and bad. Guilt is a conscience that knows from outer whispers that one has sinned.

That is how "syneidēseōs" works as a stand alone statement. After understanding it is when the word “agathēs” comes in.

It means, “good.” In usage it implies, “intrinsically good, good in nature, good whether it be seen to be so or not.” (Strong's) Thus, one must “appeal to God,” versus bowing down before the plethora of gods of the world [money, power, influence – the whispers of the devil in one’s left ear], to be joined together so one can see the way to become good in nature.

Without joining with God, one’s own will-power is not enough to block out all the whispers to do evil and to sin. That weakness, after all, is why one should realize a filthy soul needs cleansing; and, water is not going to make that happen.

Now, lost in the mix this Sunday is Psalm 25, which begins by singing, “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; my God, I put my trust in you; let me not be humiliated, nor let my enemies triumph over me.” That is how one should “appeal to God.” It is an admission of a past of wrong-doings, which is a sort of 'coming clean' from guilt, knowing oneself is powerless to stop sinning. Such a plea usually comes after one has hit 'rock bottom' and all seems to have been lost.

David’s appeal was for marriage to God, so his soul would be joined together with knowledge that showed him the way to live sin free. When David sang, “Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; in you have I trusted all the day long,” that is a plea to be God’s wife in marriage, such that one becomes completely submissive and obedient to God’s Will.

Self-will has been sacrificed – because of complete love and trust in God. That willing self-sacrifice at the altar of marriage is the symbolism of Lent. To transform from sinner to saint, one must say "I do" to whatever God says to do … and from then on listen only to God's commands.

This self-sacrifice is then the hidden aspect of the symbolism of the rainbow, which was the sign of God’s promise to Noah. The rainbow that followed the Great Flood must be seen as the release of souls to God, which were physically taken from their grotesque bodies – the monsters created by evil angels creating demigods on earth [which prefigured the ugly monsters created by lusts for money, power and influence today]. Thus, the water of a Great Flood caused physical death.

It was then the souls rising into the sky in droplets of evaporating water were caught by the sun’s heating rays, so Noah’s physical eyes were able to see the arc of souls returning to God from the earth. God’s promise was to never again use water as a means of death to purge the souls of life on earth.

Still, a promise of no more physical death created en masse by water did not promise the necessity of death releasing one’s soul to God. Death is a given to all mortal creatures, even demigods like monsters created by fallen elohim; and, even saints like Noah and his family would eventually die, created by the hand of God having made Adam. Therein lies the need for baptism by physical water – a drowning that forces separation of soul from flesh – to be replaced by baptism by the Holy Spirit – a figurative death of self-will that unites the soul with God, through an unseen spark that connects God and Man.

The key to connecting the Genesis reading to the Gospel reading is realizing the souls of Noah, his family, Jesus and his cousin John were all already joined in a marriage to God, through the Holy Spirit, well before water was used in baptism. None of them needed to die, physically or figuratively, because all had been born with a commitment to sacrifice self-ego, as the wives of God.

That wifely commitment – submissive and obedient – led Noah to hear the voice of God tell him to build an ark when there was no water nearby. Noah did not argue his opinion to God, as he was a good wife. He built the ark.

The ark must be seen as the protection afforded one by God, after having already sacrificed self-will so mortal death can do not harm to one’s soul. Neither John nor Jesus argued with God either. Their arks were the invisible vessel in which they lived - the Holy Spirit of God through the marriage of their souls to God.

John had listened to the voice of God telling him to cleanse the Jews who sought redemption. God led John to offer a symbolic cleansing by water, which went beyond the water purification rituals the Jews already incorporated. Those rituals washed clean visible signs of impurity, not the unseen guilts of sins that were not projected through physical maladies and imperfections. Sin, like the Holy Spirit, is an unseen shell surrounding a soul. The Jews followed those rituals from the privacy of their own homes and in the communal pools of water surround Jerusalem. To be baptized by John means going to John with an admission of sins [an appeal], to be ritually washed clean as a statement that the old self that has sinned must be figuratively killed by the waters of baptism, so one’s soul can rise to heaven, seen by God as the rainbow promised to Noah.

Jesus had listened to the voice of God tell him that his ministry was coming near and it was time to prove to himself that his ark of protection had been carefully constructed and needed testing in the Jordan River, with John. When the word “ebaptisthē” is translated as “was baptized,” in the reading where it says, “[Jesus] was baptized by John in the Jordan.”

That word’s presence before the words stating “in the Jordan” says Jesus “was baptized” before he entered the waters of symbolic death. That says Jesus was like Noah and within an ark that would not sink when the rains fell. Therefore, when Jesus came to the Jordan, he was incapable of sinking, or being dunked underwater.

While it is not written clearly so one can visualize the scene properly, Jesus “was baptized” by a prior marriage with God’s Holy Spirit, so Jesus walked on the water of the Jordan, or the waters of the Jordan parted just as they did when Elijah and Elisha hit the waters with the same rolled up mantle [or priestly robe], causing the waters to separate and dry ground appear for them to walk on. When Jesus came and stood with John “in the Jordan,” there was no need for water to be surrounding them. Even if onlookers saw them appearing to be in the water, they were both in protective arks, standing on dry ground.

When Mark wrote, “just as he was coming up out of the water,” the Greek words can also be read to say, “immediately [Jesus’ soul] ascended above the water.” This is the same state of baptism that is symbolized by the rainbow.

The soul of Jesus rose to a heavenly state of being, as himself becoming a rainbow sign before John. It was the soul of Jesus that ripped apart the invisible connections that hide one’s marriage to God, so Jesus could be seen by John as the one he had foreseen, who would baptize others with the Spirit that had descended to earth, joined with the soul of Jesus. John could see the invisible spark that is the Holy Spirit of God joined with Jesus - it is what artists have painted to appear as halos over the heads of saints.

Jesus became the dove returning to the ark of Noah. Jesus was then clearly the promise of a future that offered the hope of dry ground for all to stand upon, after the baptism of death had subsided. Jesus was the offering of the new vine, from which all good fruit would henceforth come.

Before we read what the voice of God said, it is important to return to Peter’s epistle and read again how he wrote, “Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God.” Jesus is identified as “Christ,” which is the Spirit’s presence that signified the marriage of Jesus to God. The meaning of “Christ” must be fully understood, as it is a state of being, not a name.

The Greek word “Christos” is seen as a replacement word for the Hebrew “Mashiach,” as both words mean “the Anointed one.” Jesus was the name of the man born and already married to God’s Holy Spirit, such that his anointment was prior to his birth. Because no physical flesh existed prior to the egg of Mary being invisibly penetrated by the elohim that was named Gabriel [spiritual - invisible placement of the 'DNA' of the Holy Spirit], the “Christ” is not a term exclusive to Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus called himself the “Son of man,” such that his being the “Son” meant he knew his soul was married to God, having become the extension of God on earth, joined such that the “Son” meant the presence of God’s “Christ.” Jesus was the name to be given to the flesh born, flesh that was mortal and bound to die. The name "Jesus" means "Yah[weh] Will Save." Jesus did not gain the title of Christ until he had died [figuratively, due to his resurrection in the flesh] and ascended, like a rainbow to heaven. That death then allowed all subsequent Apostles-Saints to be reborn in the name of the flesh [Jesus - because the name means God Will Save] and in the name of the soul married to God [Christ - because all joined with God become Anointed as His Son].

Noah was likewise anointed by God, as were all the Patriarchs, such that all were in some way "the Christ," "the Anointed by God." In that way, Noah also “suffered for sins,” which were those created by the evil elohim – the monsters causing a need for a great baptism by flood waters. Noah survived “once for all,” such that God promised never again would physical death be the way God wanted souls released to him.

Both Noah and Jesus were unique among others possessing souls [the breath of life from God given at birth to all living creatures], as they were both anointed by God’s “Christ,” but neither was exclusive to their marriage to God. Thus, the “Christ” is the offering of baptism by the Holy Spirit made “once for all” [meaning not a blessing on Sunday, with a return to sinful ways on Monday], which follows the “suffering of sins” that each individual must come to terms with, praying to God [an appeal], “Kill the me that cannot stop sinning … please God.”

That plea must be to be made as a sincere admission of being unrighteous, from a soul seeking to become righteous in the flesh. One has to go beyond the stay at home purifications of water that washes away dirt and walk to the proverbial Jordan River to be sacrificed by drowning in the waters of self-righteousness. Only by a willful sacrifice of oneself can one’s soul be released from all past transgressions, only made possible through a marriage commitment to God. We all must seek to be “put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit,” as Peter knew firsthand

Peter knew this to be the truth, because Peter [whose real name was Simon] had died of self-ego and rose from the waters of self-sacrificial death. On Pentecost Sunday his soul tore apart the heavens that was that unseen space between Man and God’s fingertip, who reached out to connect with Peter and eleven [minimally] others – all through holy matrimony of the highest kind.

This is when we also can hear God speak to us individually, saying, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Peter and the eleven other Apostles likewise became Sons of man, all reborn in the name of Jesus Christ. We too are called to each become God’s Son through the resurrection of Jesus Christ in our flesh.

In this state of loving union, we each feel like David, when he wrote:

“Remember, O Lord, your compassion and love, for they are from everlasting. Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions; remember me according to your love and for the sake of your goodness, O Lord.”

Still, with this clarification now made about the truth of baptism by the Holy Spirit, it becomes important to realize why Mark then jumped from the baptism of Jesus to his testing in the wilderness [our season called Lent]; and, then following that with a statement that Jesus began his ministry. This too is mean to be personal to each of us. More than believing Mark told the truth about what Jesus did, we need to have the faith of living the same story, as did Peter [the story told by Mark].

In the Genesis reading, God made a covenant with Noah. A “covenant” [from the Hebrew “berith”] is an agreement that is a pledge. It sets a mutual expectation between God and Noah, which clearly says God will no longer kill life on earth to regain lost souls. What is left to be read between the lines that tells more of that covenant is God expecting Noah to make that come true. The words of God are intending us to hear Noah say, “You got it boss. From now on I will play the role of teacher that brings the sinners to realize their need to virtually die, in a new form of baptism that separates souls from their flesh, sent to you willingly.”

From Noah to Jesus was a lineage of priests who played that role. It had reached the point of confessing sins and using water to ritually cleans physical sins away; but God sent His Son to lead the sinners from not knowing how to truly become righteous, from their ability to realize unrighteous acts and feel remorse. David knew that marriage to God meant a willingness to be taught the ways of righteousness, writing:

Gracious and upright is the Lord; therefore he teaches sinners in his way. He guides the humble in doing right and teaches his way to the lowly. All the paths of the Lord are love and faithfulness to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

Thus, Peter wrote of Jesus being our model when he said, “he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey.”

The “spirits in prison” are our souls locked in human bodies of flesh that are screaming to be set free from the guilts of our sins. Noah spoke to such prisoners, as did John and Jesus, as they are the servants to the Lord [His wives and committed slaves] who continually preach of baptism by the Holy Spirit.

One does not simply marry God and then go on a shopping spree, buying oneself all kinds of new lusts and desires. Marriage to God demands ministry.

A ministry for God, as His Son reborn, demands a test of one’s commitment. God is not looking for teasers to be his wives. God does not go by the outer lures, but by the pure desires of a heart. Heaven is supposed to be within one's heart, where God will stay "until death do you part." God expects total and absolute submission to His Will, "once for all" who marry God. Therefore, the season we call Lent is a creation that confesses one has reached the point of sacrificial death and one is prepared to withstand anything and everything Satan can throw at an individual soul in the flesh, without falling for those whispers that come from the devil on our left shoulder.

There can be no successful self-sacrifice without God married to one’s soul. There can be no marriage of one’s soul to God, if one refuses to get up and go do the work of the Lord, which is to teach the truth of God’s love and lead others to an awareness God wants to marry their souls too.

The biggest hinderance to that message is Satan’s whispers that Jesus died once for all the sins of mankind, forevermore. Since Jesus is known to have died on a cross, one presumes that death means all us sinners are free to think we have eternal salvation, while also having a free ticket at the sinner’s all-you-can-sin buffet. Sin all you want and then go to church and eat a wafer, sip some wine, and be good to go ever after. It is Satan that leads one to think "Salvation on Sunday, then sin, sin, sin the rest of the week, because that is what confession is all about."

That is having yet reached "one baptism for the forgiveness of sins."

Without a true baptism, trying to abstain for forty days is nothing more than playing a devil's advocate. Without baptism one will always fail the wilderness test miserably. Not being truly baptized means hearing Satan promise the world to you, if you will only stay seated in the pew and do nothing righteous.

Truly being baptized once for the forgiveness of sins means one passes the test of the wilderness. That is not just for forty days, because forty days was when the rain stopped falling. The next test was to send out the dove and have it return bearing the sign ministry was at hand. When the dove lights upon one's flesh, it is then time to say, “Get behind me, Satan.”

That can only be said in a frightening way to the devil when the words are not yours, but God’s Son speaking through your mouth.