Saturday, January 07, 2012

Baptism of Jesus B

We met John the Baptist in Advent – two Sundays in a row! And we encounter him again today. And he’s in no better a mood now than he was then.

But Mark left out the juicy bits of John`s story. He took his scissors to the moments when John’s venom was most poisonous. John had a few choice words for King Herod and his wife. John didn’t like the fact that Herod married his brother’s wife. In fact, it was against Jewish law. And if Herod didn’t like John’s well-aimed preaching he should have taken it up with God, not John. John was just doing his job.

It might have been that joltingly honest preaching that drew Jesus – and everyone else - to John that morning at the Jordan River. John was refreshing. Unique. Different from other preachers who either told people what they wanted to hear, or lined their pockets with the pennies of little old ladies. John wasn’t warm and fuzzy. But you knew that he’d give you the straight goods when it came to the things of God.

That day, in the river of freedom, where thousands of years prior, God’s people crossed from slavery into the land that God promised them, was where Jesus joined himself to that saving story, where his mandate as God’s Son was given to him. Where the affirmation of the Almighty wrapped around him like sun-soaked blanket.

“You are my Son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased...” Who wouldn’t want to hear that from God? Or from any parent for that matter.

But lying underneath this affirmation from the divine was a summons. A calling that might have made Jesus’ blood turn to ice.

If Jesus was God’s Son - Israel’s Messiah - the one to save people from their sins and create a world of justice and mercy, then that didn’t mean that he could simply bask in the warm embrace of heavenly approval. He couldn’t walk around town all Messiahy cashing in on his sacred status.

Being God’s Son meant he had to go and do things that the messiah was supposed to do. Being the messiah wasn’t a state of divine being. It was a job description. A letter of conscription from the only one in the universe who won’t take “no” for an answer.

Although, I’m sure saying “no” crossed his mind. And so, I wonder if before he dipped his toe in the water for his heavenly bath, he was tempted to take another walk around the block. Or hop on the next bus out of town.

Maybe Jesus’ temptation didn’t begin or end, like we assume, in the desert to where he ran after being dunked by John. I wonder if his temptation anxiety started well before he found himself in the Jordan River. I wonder if he was tempted to run away from his calling. From his task as God’s Son. I wonder if he was tempted to escape and hide from who he was.

If he was tempted to stay in Nazareth and take over the carpentry business from Joseph, maybe settle down, get married, and crank out a few kids, I don’t think anyone would have blamed him. After all, it wasn’t a bad life. The work was steady. He was close to family. And there were no crosses following him wherever he went.

I’m sure he had all that in the back of his mind when he followed John into the water. I’m sure he knew that, once he was dipped in the muddy river, his life was over. Everything he was and did was gone. He knew the weight that was being placed on his shoulders. It was a new beginning for Jesus. A call into God’s vision of the world that he had to follow. A path that led to the Kingdom of God - the kingdom that dwelled within his very being.

“You are my Son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased...” The next, unspoken, sentence was “Now get to work.”

Work on healing the sick and raising the dead. Work on preaching good news to the poor and setting the captives free. Work on giving sight to blind and comforting the broken hearted.

Work on showing God’s Kingdom love to a world in pain. Work on forgiving people’s sins. Work on setting the world straight through mercy and justice.

That’s quite the job description, isn’t it?

I’m glad that’s his job and not mine. I wouldn’t want to be saddled with such a burden.

But then again, who were all those people who being baptized with Jesus? What did God want for them?

As it turns out, Jesus wasn’t the only one being called into a new life that day in those waters. God was calling them into the same life that Jesus was called into. Baptism isn’t just a ritual that we perform as an entry way into the church family. And baptism isn’t just a one-off salvation ticket.

Baptism is about being recruited - drafted - into a movement. In baptism, we are joined to Jesus’ death and resurrection, so we can live resurrection lives in a world so often more interested in death.

Baptism is about God’s light shining through us in a dark world. It’s about binding the world’s wounds. It’s about being part of a movement that is bigger than ourselves, God’s movement of renewing everything about the world, where God wipes every tear from our eyes, where crying and pain are extinguished, where the hungry are satisfied, and the dead rise breathing new life.

That’s the life into which God has called YOU. That’s the task that God has placed in front of YOU. Not to earn special favour, or gain some sort of heavenly reward, or attain special spiritual status.

But God has called you into this life because that mission who God is and that’s what God does, and you are in Jesus, and Jesus is in God.
You have been joined to Jesus’ death and resurrection. You have been drafted into Christ’s mission. You have been named and claimed as God’s own child through your baptism into Christ so that you walk the earth as a healing presence.

It’s because God looked upon you, saw everything you’ve done, looked over your pains, your weaknesses, your regrets, and your failures, God has looked you up and down and inside out, and God open the divine arms, wrapped your in divine love, and said, “You are my beloved child, with whom I am well pleased…Now, you have a job to do.”

May this be so among us. Amen.

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