Baptism of the Lord: First Sunday after Epiphany – The Gospel Passage: A Pat on the Head, so to speak

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him.
John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.” (Matthew 3:13 – 15)

This is part of the “after Epiphany” part, where Jesus’ ministry is starting but has already been alluded to as being for both Jew and Gentile. Jesus’ ministry would turn many things topsy-turvey, but at least for right now it is being done “properly” where the “evangelist” baptizes all comers. At some point further down the road of ministry Jesus will baptizes his followers with the more powerful baptism that John the Baptist points to in one telling of this story.

“And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (Verses 16 -17)

We all want that. Being told that we are the Lord’s beloved and that God is well pleased with us. It has motivated many a Christian. Another one is, “Well done good and faithful servant.” Not the same fanfare as a dove, but not bad. I like to believe that God whispers the same thing to us, again without the dove – although I have nothing against doves. What I mean is that God shows us in many ways we are the Lord’s beloved and that the Lord is well pleased with us. After my yesterday, that’s a good thing to keep in mind as I end my day. Shalom!

Baptism of the Lord: First Sunday after Epiphany – The Old Testament Passage – Moving Forward

I don’t know if I can do this – move on. The day I wrote this I suffered a pretty traumatic loss – loss of property and things. But a loss that has shaken me a great deal. I don’t know if I can move on, take in this loss and move forward.

According to the calendar, the Epiphany of the Lord – when the Wise Men came which is the revelation of God’s son in the human Jesus Christ, and  signals Jesus’ salvation to the Gentiles – happens later this week (January 6th). And the first Sunday after Epiphany (January 8th) the focus is on Jesus’ baptism. So in a sense, we are getting a little met ahead of ourselves. Here I am commenting on scriptures (Jesus’ baptism) that are to be considered after the Epiphany but I am doing so before the Epiphany. It is making me feel more than a little muddled. But what is true for posting things is true for my self of loss – I have to move on. Not sure how though.

Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.” (Isaiah 42:1 – 4)

Isaiah is always a good book to go to when one is feeling lost and bereft. The writer of Isaiah seems to know about loss, suffering, but also how to look to God in times of trouble and grieving. So when I saw an Isaiah passage for the Baptism of the Lord, I felt like it was something I would have something to say about. There is also one for the Epiphany of the Lord, but it did not resonate as well. I may come back to it, or I may choose others passages for the Epiphany.

“Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. I am the LORD, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols. See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.” (Verses 5 – 9)

Maybe not the comfort that speaks to this situation, exactly. And it does seem to speak more about Jesus Christ and what he accomplished in his ministry than it does then me. But when you feel lost and bereft you take what you can get, and when you can get it. Certainly there would be other passages that speak about what I am feeling inside. But you know, part of moving on is knowing what is the NOW will not be what is the future. Days will pass, and I will start to rebuild and reclaim what was lost.

But don’t ask me how; I don’t have that figured out yet. What I do know is that by the time you read this, beloved reader, I will have moved on somehow. And I know I am not alone. Even now I have gathered friends and family around me to help. I have used the contacts and tools I used last time this happened. (Yes, this has happened before on a smaller scale. It is a consequence of living in a fallen and broken world.)

I think that is all I have to say. It has taken all I have to comment today, and to say this much. I covet your prayers, beloved reader, even if it is after the fact. I pray that when the times comes that you read this, I will be starting to heal from this. May you, beloved reader, heal from that hurts that have carried over into the New Year. Selah!

First Sunday After Epiphany/Jesus’ Baptism: Gospel Passage – Coming to and be received by God

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Luke 3:15-17)

The times, they were ready, for someone to come forward, gather up, and redeems God’s people. That is a common feeling, and throughout the history humanity there have been many times like that. John the Baptist, however, was the one charged with announcing and preparing for Christ’s arrival. That does not negate what others have said and done since then calling believers and unbelievers alike back to God and Christ. John’s peers and contemporaries questioned whether John might be the one they are waiting for. He answered their questions with a firm “NO!” And used the opportunity to teach more about Jesus, according to his/the writer of Luke’s understanding.

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Verses 21-22)

The story in the gospel of Luke leaves out the part of Jesus’ actual baptism. And this Sunday which celebrates the baptism of Jesus moves us beyond the story of Jesus’ birth – although tomorrow Jan 6 is the Day of Epiphany. I will say more about that tomorrow. As I have said previously, this year the days of Advent and Christmas crowd around each other. And because I spend the week leading up to each Sunday looking at each scripture text of the lectionary, it sometimes puts commemorative days in awkward juxtaposition and relation. Rest assured that tomorrow I will give fuller treatment to each event in Jesus’ life.

On the day commemorating Jesus’ baptism it is good to consider our own baptism. And in the year when confession, penance, and forgiveness are highlighted, thinking about our own baptism may cause us (and perhaps should cause us) to consider where we have gone astray from the days when we were so closely living and committed to God and Christ. I am not suggesting, beloved reader that you have strayed terribly or strayed at all. But just as last year we looked and renewal and recommitment, this year we are encouraged to come and come back to our Lord confessing our lapses, and being redeemed. It is a time not so much of “beating of chest” and “flaying of body” but of quiet meditation and contemplation of what we hoped and intended to live like, and what the actuality was.

Jesus underwent baptism to show his devotion to his God. We do so also. Jesus meditated, contemplated, and prayed to God. We should do so also. Christology says that Jesus had nothing to confess, do penance for and receive forgiveness for. Us? Not so much. But God welcomes us and cherishes us as much as Christ was welcomed and cherished by the Lord that sent him into the world. On this we can depend, and with this faith and belief we can come to our Lord in assurance that we will be received and loved. May you feel this assurance, or come to know this assurance as the year progresses. Selah!