The Baptism of Our Lord
We have been working hard over the past few years to get to know Jesus, who he is, what is important to him, what his ministry was and why we care some two thousand years after his birth. Jesus by all accounts was a good man, generous with his time and compassion, charismatic, a healer, a wise teacher and preacher well versed in the teachings of the Jews and the temple, an irritant to the political and religious leaders of his time and a lover of God. There have been other good men and women, so why Jesus? We believe that God reveals himself through Jesus Christ, that by getting to know Jesus we get to know God. Jesus is the one through whom Christians come to know God.
God becomes angry at the injustices he sees in the world, angry at the misuse of power and his temple as shown when Jesus overturns the tables of the money exchangers and drives the animals out of the temple. We see this in how Jesus heals the sick, gives life to the dying, and associates with the poor, the marginalized, the stranger and the unloved. God mourns that his people cannot and do not understand that he loves them and wants his people to build strong relationships with their neighbors and with God, that God wants to be their father and their mother and to gather them under his protection like a mother hen.
We come to know about God and Jesus through stories passed down by our families and friends, by our churches and worship centers. We come to know God and Jesus through Scripture, the songs we sing and the prayers we pray, through the time we spend with God in community and in solitude, in our life experiences.
In today’s scripture readings we learn that God is a powerful God, more powerful than any storm god, stronger than thunderstorms, hurricanes, tsunamis, tornadoes, volcanoes and earthquakes and yet God cares about his people, providing for his people’s needs and giving them peace. God is not just powerful and in control of the weather and nature, God created them. God created all that is from nothing. God creates order from chaos. God creates light where there has only been darkness. God creates the heavens and the earth where there was only a formless void. God created time. God is outside of time and outside the rules of nature because God created them. Our God is a powerful, fearsome God, wild as a storm and gentle as a potter.
Are we afraid of God? Well we should be! However we describe God, God is more. God is bigger than our wildest dreams or darkest nightmares, stronger than a raging bull or a fierce Pitbull. And yet God created the intricate detail and delicate beauty of a poinsettia. God is almighty and all powerful. God knows all, sees all and is in all places and yet knows you and me personally, intimately, lovingly. God knows what we want and need before we ask and yet waits patiently for us to ask so that we know what we want and need. God is beyond our control. We try to define God, say who he is, what he can do. We try to put God in a box, but she will not be confined by gender, nationality, race or time. The hem of his robe fills the temple. When we cannot define God then we say he cannot exist. There must be rules, there must be ways to prove his existence, to predict how he will act, but we cannot even predict the weather with accuracy.
At this Epiphany season and the coming of the wise men, we remember that God loves all people, all nations, that God loves you and me. God was and is the God of the Hebrew and Jewish people. God is the God of all people from Adam and Eve and from Noah and his family, for all times and all places. Abraham and Sarah’s faithfulness is a blessing for all nations, for Isaac’s descendants and for Ishmael’s descendants, for Jew and Arab, for Israel and Palestine, for Jew, Muslim and Christian.
The Spirit of God moves across the face of the waters at the beginning of the created order, at the beginning of time. The Holy Spirit came upon Mary at the conception of Jesus, upon Jesus at his baptism, upon the disciples of Jesus at Pentecost and upon the Ephesians when they had been baptized in the name of Jesus and Paul laid his hands on them. We believe the Spirit of God lives in each one of us, that the Spirit is present at our baptism, confirmation, marriage, ordination, in times of reconciliation and times of illness and at our death. We call down the Spirit of God at the Eucharist.
So why do we continue to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ? Because we believe it is a time in history when God walked on the earth as a human, that Jesus is both divine and human, that Jesus is the Son of God, not adopted at his baptism or his resurrection, but begotten at his conception, that Jesus is God, God incarnate in human flesh and blood. As rational, intelligent people we say, “How can we believe in the virgin birth or the physical resurrection”, but as children of God, as disciples of Jesus we believe in the mystery of God. We do not know how the world came to be, creation or big bang or something unknown, but we believe that God was before anything was, that God is the “Force” behind all that is. We do not know how Jesus was conceived in Mary or how a dead man could rise again to new life, but we believe in the mystery of God and believe that God was active in the conception, birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. And we believe that God continues to be active in our lives today; in the birth of our grandchildren, that God is with us in sickness and health and that God is with our loved ones in their death.
God is all powerful and all knowing. God created light and darkness. God created the distant stars and the water running from our taps. God created the raging snowstorms and the lips of a new born child. God walked in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the night and Jesus walked the countryside of Galilee and the streets of Jerusalem. God broke open the heavens and the Spirit of God descended upon Jesus at his baptism and God assured Jesus, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” We believe that as we tell the stories of the Bible, as we sing God’s praises, as we pray and as we celebrate the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Eucharist that the Spirit of God is with us. Amen.
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Mother Darlene Kuhn
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