Today we commemorate the baptism of Jesus and recommit our lives to our baptismal vows. After this past week where we saw chaos in our nation’s capital, maybe we can take some comfort in today’s Bible readings. I am thankful that the chaos was contained in a short time though I mourn the loss of life. It was good to hear some voices of reason speak truth to and from places of power. We will all see how it unfolds.
My words of comfort come from that powerful voice of God the Creator during creation. Order is created out of chaos. Our baptism in Christ can also make divine order out of the chaos of our own lives. In Genesis, the Spirit hovers over creation and new life is created out of darkness. Each bit of this new life had and still has a niche--a purpose for being. This Genesis story reminds us of our obligation to be good stewards of the gifts of creation so all these elements can work together for the common good. It also reminds us of the power of God and God’s desire and ability to create.
If God’s voice alone is this powerful that it can create a whole universe, think of the power of the incarnate Jesus and what he can do with that same creation. By coming among us, God invited us to be part of this divine creation story. And when Jesus was baptized and God tore open the sky to release the Holy Spirit and speak to Jesus, “You are my beloved,” it is an endorsement of humanity’s place in the universe. We are here to participate rather than sit back and watch it all unfold around us.
After this experience, Jesus moved down a new path--out into the wilderness to prepare for his ministry. And, in baptism, we move from God as a disembodied voice, from God as a brother alongside us, to God as indwelling Holy Spirit.
Jesus’s contemporaries could answer his call to live differently even under the oppressive Roman rule. We can answer the call to alter our lives. We could focus on gathering wealth, travel to wonderful places, gaining more attention on social media, our work and all the things that vie for time and attention. We, though, have been baptized into Christ’s body, and we are called to be good stewards of our baptismal promises--to make a difference in the world in the name of Christ. It is our job to proclaim the kingdom of God. To proclaim good news to the poor.
At baptism, we move from chaos to a focus on presenting Christ to the world. Our decision to be baptized and receive the Holy Spirit does not make us righteous or perfect or lovable. The work we do for Christ is not what makes God love us. God. Simply. Loves. Us. When we emerge from the waters of baptism, we finally are able to hear the truth of God’s love in our hearts.
The ministries we take up afterward are a response to this overwhelming and unconditional love. We become the stewards of this love and we are meant to allow it to flow through us out into the world.
It causes me to reflect on all the folks who let that love from God flow through them to me. The list is too long to even include here. An arm around the shoulder and a smile from the lady who made the best home churned butter in the world! No, really, I asked for a pound of her butter for one of my birthdays when I was a teenager and my mom went down and bought some from her! It was only for me and it took me quite some time to eat it but it was delicious! If only I still had the metabolism of my teenage body! Thank you for loving me, Cora Belle!
My friend, Sherron, who listened to the things I worried about and gave me advice and loved me!
Doug, the pastor who married Jim and I at Purdue. He preached about a Jesus I had never heard of before! He loved all of us and taught us how we could live a life of love without being perfect.
This is not even the tip of the iceberg of folks who have loved and shaped me over the decades of my life. Those wise men, the magi, visited the creche and they took a different path home.
My hope for us is that we can imagine ourselves rising dripping wet from our baptisms and that we go out into the world each day and love those who are in it. Because why else would God tear open the sky and remove the boundaries between his kingdom and the world we live in, if it wasn’t to assure that his love would expand through the universe? We certainly have healing, loving work to do in the world no matter how chaotic it may seem to be.