Yesterday's reading from Acts 19 and today's reading from the Gospel of Mark, when taken together, invite reflection on the nature and validity of baptism as performed by John the Baptist. What seems clear is that both John's and Jesus' baptisms recognize that the gift of baptism is forgiveness of sins, which is what is necessary if any relationship with the one, holy God is to be possible. John proclaims that one more powerful than he is coming. What is different is that Jesus' baptism--both the baptism he received and the baptism he commanded--involves the Holy Spirit--who then makes faith possible.
The gospels record many examples of Jesus exercising power over sickness, over stormy weather, even over death. Many prayers of the church include petitions that God might fix our lives--heal the sick, protect and improve the environment, grant justice to the oppressed. These are big problems, but are "puppy problems" compared to the biggest problem we each face. Our greatest problem is our separation from God. And for that, Jesus exercised his greatest power--by dying on the cross. In its best use, power is always motivated by love.
Spirit of God, inspire us, encourage us, move us to proclaim—by our words and our deeds—your measureless love for your world and all its people. May we always use the gifts you have given us for the benefit of the creation and your creatures, whom you pronounced as "good." Amen.
Mark 1: 4, 7- 8 (NRSV)
4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins...
7 And this was his message: "After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.
8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."