Epiphany 1 - Year C
Again a distinction between the outward sign (baptism) of an inward grace (spirit). This gives rise to recognition of Christmas and Easter Christians as well as Anonymous Christians. There are additional questions to be raised about being baptized as a group (Samaria) in distinction to baptism as an individual. How public or private can baptism be envisioned? Is it an eternal sign always affirmed and defended or more practically acknowledged in some situations but not others? Arguments about baptism as an expression of faith or a prerequisite of effective evangelism continue.
And so a secondary question about the efficacy of prayer after baptism, as well as that of prayer prior to baptism. How does prayer fit into hearing and accepting? Into spirit reception?
This gives rise to questions about tertiary signs as well, such as the imposition of hands. If a bishop should have their hands blown off by a mine (as so many still do today [mourn mightily]) would the touch of an arm stump allow a similar completion of a circuit from said bishop to prospective ordinand? It is so easy to get side-tracked into formalism and repetition of the past. [Reminder: Peter and John were not bishops and there was a bit of a gap between Bishop John Potter/John Wesley and Francis Asbury - not to mention other unorthodox carryings-on that have been incorporated into the hagiography of our day.]
These four verses paint pictures that spark more questions than they resolve. This is a good thing.