Though he was without sin, and not necessarily in need of atonement, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptizer in the pilgrim-packed river Jordan. According to Matthew, John even says "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" (Matt. 3:14). The river Jordan has played a central place in the Bible, with the story of the people of God crossing it earlier in their lives to land of plenty. The pilgrimage story of the adult Jesus, the Pilgrim God, begins in earnest in this (what we now call) sacrament with water, an earthy element of God's own design , with a little hydrogen and oxygen. Submerged in the muddy waters, Jesus comes out of the water, gasping for air, and suddenly the clouds were opened to Jesus and Jesus saw the Spirit of God descend like a dove and alighting on him with the voice saying "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:17). And immediately, Jesus went off to the wilderness to be tempted by the Evil One.
Many times that I've led groups on pilgrimage, we've often begun with a re-affirmation of baptismal covenants, remembering our baptism, our genesis, our "point of origin" for our earthly pilgrimage. It is in our baptism that we begin, in earnest, our pilgrimage as we openly, in community, connect with our forbears who preceded us on this holy trek. In our baptism, we become, publicly, part of the motley, silly, women able-bodied, men, disabled, old, young, straight, gay, royal, prophetic, ordinarily extraordinary throng on their way to the Holy City. In our baptism, we experience a death of individualism, and rise in Christ, as members of the body of Christ for all the world to see, hear, and know.
On this Sunday, we worship the Pilgrim God, who faithfully accompanies us wherever we may go.