Friday, January 13, 2017

NOTES: Baptism of our Lord, January 8th, 2017

Or maybe it's the Feast of the Epiphany, celebrated?

I feel like I am in an old timey cartoon, watching Jesus' life speed by like a train. We got glimpses this year of his childhood: there's goes the birth and an angry Herod, sending out the troops to massacre the Holy Innocents. Maybe we can wave to Anna and Old Simeon at the presentation? Woohoo, circumcision! Somewhere we passed the Magi and their foreshadowy gifts and the flight into Egypt...

And now the train has stopped. Catch your breath, we get a panoramic view of the Baptism of our Lord.

Head's up: Jesus is now an adult.

Our readings for this week are descriptive:
Isaiah tells us what God will do.
Psalm 29 describes the actions of a mighty God - "Lebanon skips like a calf."
Acts succinctly retells the story from a distance of some years, to a new audience - and importantly, what Peter tells them (and us!) what actions we should take with that information.
And Matthew's Gospel gives us the actual interchange between John the Baptizer and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, speaking God's words. (My co-editor at Building Faith, Matthew, has a handy explainer for this occurrence.)

Unlike viewing the world through the windows of a speeding train, reading God's story in Scripture isn't linear. We loop and double back more like a roller coaster, often ending up in the same physical space as when we started. Surely, it is the journey that makes the difference. This same reading from Acts is also read at Easter in all three lectionary years. It is the story, if you read just a few more lines, of a massive baptism by the Holy Spirit to a group of non-Jews. We read it at the same time we read the story of Jesus' the start of a new year.

In another big loop, here we find Peter in Joppa, the same city where Jonah fled to avoid God calling him to preach to non-Israelites. Peter is being called into Cesearea, to share daily living with, and to preach to, non-Jews.

As Christians we are called to repeat the holy cycle year after year, sometimes, as in this reading from Acts, repeating the same scripture verses within a year. But as Sir Terry Pratchett notes, "Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving." And we can see this! We know that this January is not like any previous one. As we look with some trepidation to the big changes ahead of us a country, as communities, as congregations, we can also reflect upon the words of the Psalmist, written some 3,000 years ago, calling us to witness to God's terrifying acts, not simply to scare us, but to testify that this God is our God of strength and a blessing to us.

No comments: