WEDNESDAY IN THE WORD January 4, 2023
This Sacred Season in Renewal
Matthew 3:13-17 NRSV
One minute, we’re gazing at a swaddled baby. The next, we’re whizzing past a toddler, an array of gift-bearing Magi, a young family fleeing to Egypt, a twelve-year-old boy in a temple, and a mother, pondering all these things in her heart. And then?
On the other hand, even though the “fast forward” between seasons feels abrupt, I’m grateful that the first glimpse we get of Jesus’s adult life is during his baptism. I’m especially grateful this year, because the baptism story recorded in the Gospels speaks to a question we could ask in these difficult and divisive times: how can we live well together? How can we belong well together? What must we do to embrace a truly common life as human beings coexisting on this struggling planet?
Why, indeed? Unbelievable as it seems, Jesus’s first public act is an act of alignment. Of radical and humble joining. His first step is a step towards us. “Let it be so now,” He says to John in Matthew’s version of the story. It echoes the radical consent of his mother, Mary, who raises him in the faith. Let it be so at the hands of another, he decides, indicating that his power lies in his capacity to surrender, to share, and to submit.
This one act, Jesus steps into the common and inescapable experience of living in a broken, sin-soaked world, and hungering for righteousness, redemption, and restoration within that world. And leads us to the point that is about what it means to declare genuine and costly solidarity with our neighbors in a world that is structurally, wholly, and jointly “living in sin.” It’s a story of profound humility. The holy child conceived of the Holy Spirit, celebrated by angels, worshiped by shepherds, and feared by Herod, stands in the same muddy water we stand in. The Messiah’s first public act is a declaration of solidarity. God is one of us.
But to embrace Christ’s baptism story is to embrace the core truth that we are all united, interdependent, connected, one. Our personal “goodness” notwithstanding, our baptisms bind us to all of humanity—not in theory, but in the flesh. We are kin, responsible for each other, even at times when we fail to do. We are called into radical solidarity, not radical separateness. In baptism, we are God’s Beloved. We’re beloved not because we’ve done anything to earn it, but because God’s very nature, inclination, and desire is to love and to birth that same kind of love in us.
He calls us to step in, not just toe-dipping—to find the holy in the course of our ordinary, mundane life within the family of God. Which means we must choose and then practice in faith opportunities for what we are called. Maybe you’re being asked to consent to love, forgiveness, peace, compassion, welcome, courage, hope, beauty. What is being asked of you today?
Every time we consent we wade into the deep waters of life. We stand with Jesus in the river of humanity and together we fulfill all righteousness – nothing gets left undone and no one gets left out. “Let it be so now.” See freshly what looks utterly ordinary, and cling to the possibility of a surprise that is God.
For Jesus is the one who stands in line with us at the water’s edge, willing to immerse himself in shame, scandal, repentance, and pain—all so that we might hear the only Voice that will tell us who we are and whose we are in this sacred season of renewal. Listen. We are God’s chosen. God’s children. God’s own. Even in the deepest, darkest water, we are the Beloved. Let it be so now. Amen!