Heaven Was Opened: Interruptions...
Read: Isaiah 49:1-7, Matthew 3:13-17
I am a big believer in God made known through the rhythms and patterns of our natural world. Not in a crazy hippie, spiritualist way but I believe that our identity is rooted in being children of God and perhaps, just maybe, creation speaks to us about that. Take this weekend, for example, while I would never say that God sends storms or the such to cause suffering, I would say that being told to stay indoors presents us with an interruption in daily life and a space where we can choose to allow our plans to be waylaid. There will be people who will not let the weather ruin their well laid plans (please, stay safe), but for those of us sheltered inside, consider spending some time in Sabbath rest. The Hebrew meaning of Sabbath, after all, is STOP. It is an interruption, just like an ice storm on a Sunday morning.
Another great interruption occurred around two thousand years ago when Jesus was baptized. He has walked out to the wilderness to meet up with his wild and prophetic relative preaching salvation and damnation. It was time to start his public ministry. Among the hundreds gathered at the river that morning, John the Baptist spots his relative. Now those two guys have a bit of a misunderstanding or missed communication. Jesus is there to make public the start of his ministry by being baptized and John thinks that Jesus is there to take over. Jesus was ready for submission; John was ready to pass the torch. Awkward.
That’s not the interruption though. After the awkwardness is over, John agrees to baptize Jesus and Jesus takes his turn in the river. The interruption happens when as Jesus came up out of the water, heaven was opened, and God’s voice proclaimed, “this is my son, whom I dearly love, I find happiness in him” (Matt 3:17, CEB).
Many will say that Jesus knew exactly what he was doing being baptized and never doubted his mission and ministry for a moment. I would say for the sake of this devotion, let’s remember that Jesus was human. Humans doubt and wonder and question and are certain one moment and not so certain the next. Maybe Jesus wondered if all that he had been told was true. Maybe Jesus needed a sign that he was on the right path, a nice affirmation that this was the step he needed to take. In that moment, God stopped the line of people getting in and out of the water to be baptized, took a moment of personal privilege and spoke words of identity. Jesus was the son of God, dearly loved by God.
This interruption is remembered in every baptism in the church. When the community welcomes another into their midst, God declares, “this is my child, whom I dearly love.” As the water is poured or sprinkled over the individual’s head, we are reminded of our own identity as a beloved child of God, and the calling that we have to spread that good news throughout creation. We too need a little affirmation at times. Living as children of God is not only a personal but a very social calling.
In this season of Epiphany (of the revelation of the incarnation of God) we are reminded that our God works through the material world. God works through the fleshiness of humanity to bring reconciliation. God works through the simple element of water to restore the world. This is good news. This means that God’s grace surrounds us in a very earthy, incarnate and tangible way. God can work even through interruptions in our lives.
The two pictures above speak of baptism to me. One is a picture of the Jordan River in the West Bank where myself and a group of my fellow seminarians travelled and remembered the story of Jesus’ baptism. The other is the view from my kitchen window this morning. The trees and grass of our backyard are covered in ice. Creation is weighed down by water, frozen water, bathed in the grace of God. I am reminded to go slow today. My soul needs rest after all. All of our souls need rest. May rest find your soul today; may the grace of God be incarnate in your life and may the waters of your baptism renew you for the interruptions of life. Amen.
God of light and life, who has called us your beloved children, we give you thanks today for the waters of our baptism which renew us and remind us of our identity. As we take rest today, guide our souls toward you. We celebrate your revelation and yet forget to take note of it each day. We want to be your light in the world, but first we must welcome your peace and your interruptions into our spirits. Thank you for your continued presence and grace. May they be made known in our lives this week. This we ask in the name of Jesus who taught us to pray... Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come; your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
- Do you remember your baptism? If not, have you been present for someone else’s? What do you remember about it?
- What does it mean to you to be a child of God?
- Where do you see the revelation of God today?
- What does rest look like for you? Have you experienced it lately? What might restore your soul this day?
- Call and check-in or pray with several members of the church.
- Talk to your spouse, children or important people in your life about your baptism story or ask someone to tell you about it (if you were an infant when it happened).
- Make a picture, collage, display or playlist that reminds you of your identity as a child of God.
- Spend some moments in meditation/reflection on God’s revelation in the world.
- Write a prayer for the week.