Be Coming

Be the Coming Scripture Text:  Isaiah 43: 15-19

I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King.  Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:  Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.  I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will  make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

 

We have talked and talked about preparing the way, about being the ones to make a way for the Coming of the Lord.  So what exactly does that mean?  What are we REALLY supposed to be doing during this Season of Holy Waiting?  Do we clean up around us, perhaps making the place in which we reside a bit more presentable?  Do we pull out the good dishes and the best linens?  Do we prepare a meal fit for a king?  Do we throw all that we have into decorating our lives for the season?  No, it’s probably something more.  Do we prepare ourselves to welcome God, perhaps to be open to what surely will be a massive change in the way we think and the way we live?  Do we clear ourselves of the debris in our minds and hearts so that we are prepared for God to come into our lives unhindered?  What does all that mean?

 

Perhaps this season, in the midst of our waiting, in the midst of our preparing, is a season of becoming.  Not just becoming something better or something different; not just becoming someone more versed in the ways of the Lord; it means becoming–learning to BE the Coming of the Lord.  What if our lives, rather than being spent looking for something or someone outside of us to come, someone to come and “fix” things or “change” things or set things right, were spent becoming the Coming?  (I know…I’m talking in circles.)  God is not waiting in the wings of our lives to come.  God is not holding out on us until we “get it” or until we “do something right” or even until we “become who God envisions that we can be.”  God is here, now, in this moment, waiting…waiting…patiently waiting for us to see and to hear and to know.  God is waiting for us to realize that we, even we, can BE the Coming of God into our world, can BE the very image of God, the very likeness of Jesus Christ.

 

We are not called to become God.  God is God.  We are not destined to become Divine.  But we are already holy and sacred, a gift of God.  As the Scripture says, God is about to do a new thing–even with us.  God is even now making a way in the wilderness, clearing a path, for the Reign of God to come in its fullness.  Even now the darkness in our lives is being pushed back.  The Light is beckoning us forth.  Follow the path.  BE the Coming of God into this world.  In other words, BE the Light.  Be the change.  Be Coming.

 

The noblest prayer is when [one] who prays is inwardly transformed into what [one] kneels before. (Angelus Silesius, 1624-1677)

 

FOR TODAY:  Imagine what it means to BE the Coming of God.  What do you need to do to prepare for that?

 

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

You Start at the Very Beginning…

Dawn in the wildernessScripture Text:  Mark 1: 1-8

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’”

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Do you remember the song from “The Sound of Music”?  “You start at the very beginning.  A very good place to start.  When you read, you begin with A-B-C; when you sing you begin with Do-Re-Mi.  The first three notes just happen to be Do-Re-Mi. Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti…..oh let’s see if we can’t make it a little bit easier…”  (Yeah, I’m a Sound of Music dork.)  We’re used to that…starting at the beginning, learning our A-B-C’s before we jump headlong into reading Tolstoy or something.  But, the writer of the Gospel According to Mark seemed to just sort of want to get this show on the road.  We’ve become so accustomed to the beauty and poetry of the nativity that somehow that becomes the season for us.  But here…”The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”  That’s it.  That’s all you get.  No announcement of Jesus’ birth, no birth story, no stable, no inn, no manger, no Mary and Joseph and the babe, no shepherds, no magi.  Just that.  It’s sort of like the Gospel writer is saying “refer to the previous volumes”.  But, of course, most Biblical scholars will tell you that there WERE no previous volumes of the Gospel but that this one was the first.  So, what is that beginning?

 

Then it goes on:  As it is written….Essentially, the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is everything that came before–all the prophets, all the judges, all the Wisdom, all the kings, Elijah, Moses, Ruth, Jacob, Abraham, Sarai, all the exiles returning home, all the burning bushes and parting waters, all the covenants, all those generations upon generations of people who wandered in the wilderness.  And now…now appearing in the wilderness is this wild, somewhat unkempt, bear of a man who clothes himself in camel’s hair and eats what appears to be whatever crosses his path in the brush.  There were certainly those with “proper” upbringing and “acceptable” expression of their religious beliefs that probably would have been a bit embarrassed by the display.  I mean, maybe it would have gone down easier if it had been someone a tad bit more “traditional”.  (But then, really, was Jesus all that status quo?)  And yet, I’m fascinated with this character of John the Baptist.  He knew who he was.  He knew his place.  He was called to prepare the way.  He was called to BE the voice crying out in the wilderness.  He was called to prepare the way of the Lord.

 

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  Here we are, in the wilderness of our lives, wandering a little aimlessly at times, trying our best to connect to God, to feel God’s Presence in our lives.  And yet, we know that God did not plunk down in the middle of the bustling city of Jerusalem.  God did not come in the way that was planned or imagined.  The Son of God emerged into the wilderness that was already there, already so full of God that the very earth shook.  The truth is, God had been there all along.  The good news of Jesus Christ was always beginning.  The same is true for us today.  What we are living is not some sort of prelude of a life to come; it is the very beginning of the story.  Maybe that’s our shortcoming.  Maybe we live lives limited by the chapters surrounding us.  But God…God came and comes over and over and over again, beginning, recreating, starting us over.  Advent is the season of beginnings–the beginning of the church year, the beginning of us, the beginning of what comes next.  Advent is not a preface to the high holy day on which we celebrate the Savior’s birth.  Advent reminds us that we, even now, are the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”  The truth is, the story ALWAYS is at the beginning!

 

When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: Either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly. (Edward Teller)

 

FOR TODAY:  How are you called to prepare the way for Christ?  How are you called to begin again?

 

 

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

 

 

Comfort, O Comfort My People

 

 

Scripture Text:  Isaiah 40: 1-5Road through the desert

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.  A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

“Comfort, O Comfort my people.”  That sounds nice.  It sounds warm and inviting, something that we can just sort of fold ourselves into and relax and let God take care of us.  Well, maybe.  But then what happens?  What we do with our lives after that?  The truth is, as much as we like to imagine a warm and fuzzy God that heaps everything we desire and everything we need to make our lives easy and comfortable on us, that’s not exactly the way it always is.  Here, comfort is not solace; here comfort is transformation.  God is promising something new.  These words begin with God’s initiative–to bring the exiles home.  Sure, it will mean ending their suffering and making their lives better.  But it is more.  It means that they will become something new–a new creation.  The former things have passed away.  God is not in the habit of rebuilding or “fixing” the way it is easy for us to imagine could happen.  God is the Creator, the great I AM, the one who brings newness and life.

 

So, God prepares a highway through the wilderness.  Now, don’t think that there wasn’t already a road there.  In the year 539 BCE, Cyrus of Persia conquered the Babylonians. Now he tended to be sort of a benign and tolerant ruler and so he allowed those who had been previously exiled from Jerusalem the chance to return home. So the people are beginning to return home, but to a home that was nothing like it was before. If you can imagine, these waves upon waves of people on this highway that leads toward Jerusalem—a Jerusalem that now lies in ruins without the Temple that used to be in the center of its life. This highway, a highway through the desert that, typical of the ancient world, was originally built to accommodate royal processions. Everything was done to make the highway smooth and clear.   The road was there, already made straight and smooth for the royals to travel.  And so the exiles, returning to “who knows what?” were on this road.

 

But, wait, look, over here.  God also promises a highway, smoothed and cleared of mountains and deep, treacherous valleys that would impede the journey.  God promises a holy highway built for a grand procession led by the Almighty God.  It’s still a road that you have to travel, but, rather than leading you to the ruins of the life you once knew, THIS road leads you Home.  And as we travel this road, God is creating and creating and creating the whole time, unfolding our life before us as long as we keep our eyes open to see what God is doing.  This is the way that the Glory of the Lord shall be revealed.

 

This is the road that Advent shows us.  It’s not one that takes us to the place that we’ve always known.  Advent shows us the newness that God is offering.  In the Advent season, we remember those generations upon generations that waited for a Savior.  We also prepare ourselves to remember once again how Christ came and comes.  But there’s another part of Advent that we miss.  It is this road, this road that we’re on that leads us to finally see things in a different light.  There is a Maori proverb that says “turn your face to the sun and the shadows will fall behind you.”  “Comfort, O Comfort my people.”  The Light is changing and you, even you, even now, are being made new.  “Then the Glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together.”

 

Learn to see and then you’ll know there is no end to the new worlds of our vision.  (Carlos Castaneda)

 

FOR TODAY:  What newness has God created in your life?  During this Advent, what newness can you find on the road?

 

Grace and Peace,

 

Shelli

Re-Creation

Easter Lily (DT 8087007)

Scripture Text:  John 20: 1-18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

 

THE LORD IS RISEN!

THE LORD IS RISEN INDEED!

Christ, the Lord, is risen today, Alleluia!   Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!  Sing, ye heavens, and earth, reply, Alleluia!

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!  Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Lo! the Sun’s eclipse is over, Alleluia!  Lo! He sets in blood no more, Alleluia!

Vain the stone, the watch, the seal, Alleluia!  Christ hath burst the gates of hell, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!  Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!  Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!  Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!  Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!  Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

Hail, the Lord of earth and Heaven, Alleluia!  Praise to Thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!  Hail, the resurrection, thou, Alleluia!

King of glory, Soul of bliss, Alleluia!  Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, Thy power to prove, Alleluia!  Thus to sing and thus to love, Alleluia!

(Charles Wesley, 1739)

The day has arrived!  After all this time of anunciation and birth, of baptism and ministry, of teaching and healing, of calling and response, of temptation and darkness, of dying and crucifixion, this Day of Resurrection has dawned.  After this long and difficult journey that we have taken, we come to this day with new eyes and as a new creation.  Christ has risen!  Christ has risen indeed!

But lest we lapse into thinking of this day as a commemoration of The Resurrection of Christ, as a mere remembrance of what happened on that third day so long ago, as some sort of shallow anniversary of Christ’s rising, we need to realize that this day is not just about Jesus’ Resurrection; it is also about our own.  We who carried our cross, we who died to self, we who journeyed through the wilderness and through those gates, are this day given new life.  God has recreated us into who God calls us to be.  And, in a way, that is almost more scary than the dying.  There is no going back.  The self that we knew before is no more.  We are a new creation.  We are a re-creation.

We have risen! 

We have risen indeed!

From the void, from the darkness, God created Light and Life.  Truthfully, if you look at it from a literal view, nothing has really changed.  Jesus, sadly, is still dead.  The human Jesus, the Jesus born into this world on that long ago night in Bethlehem, was gone.   But through eyes that have been resurrected, nothing will ever be the same again.

Maybe resurrection comes not in raising one above life, but in raising life to where it is supposed to be.  Jesus was the first to cross that threshold between–between death and life, between the world and the sacred, between seeing with the eyes of the world and seeing with the eyes of the Divine.  Hell has been vanquished.  Wesley wrote that “Christ hath burst the gates of hell”.  What that means is that everything, everything that God has created, everything above, below, within, around, everything we see, everything we know, everything we wonder about, everything we do not understand, has been made anew.  Resurrection is not about being transplanted to a new world but rather being called to live in this one as a new creation.  It means being recreated into the one that God envisions you to be.  It means being given a new way of seeing where love is stronger than death, where hope abides, and where life has no end.  It means being capable of glimpsing the Holy and the Sacred, the promise of Life, even in this life, even now.  This day of Easter is now only about Jesus’ Resurrection; it is about ours!  So, what do you plan to do with your new life?

The end of all our exploring…will be to arrive where we started…and know the place for the first time. (T.S. Eliot)

 

King of glory, Soul of bliss, Alleluia! Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, Thy power to prove, Alleluia! Thus to sing and thus to love, Alleluia!

Everlasting life is truly this!

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

 

In the Hours Before the Dawn

dark-before-dawnScripture Text:  Genesis 1:1-5a, 31a, 2:1-3

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.  Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night…God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good…Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. 

We’re never really sure what to do with this day.  Everything is so quiet, so unsettled.  Memories of the week before interrupt our quiet thoughts, filling our minds with regrets over things we would have done differently, places we would have said “yes”, places we would have said “no”, places that we would have stood, places that we would have stayed.  The Cross is empty and Jesus is gone, laid in the tomb–forever.  We know that we will have to go on but we’re not sure how to do that. This is a day when once again, we are covered in darkness.  The earth feels out of sorts, almost formless and empty once again.  And so we sit here in these hours before the dawn with no direction, no guide, no journey that we can see.

And, yet, God has done this before, this creating.  God takes a formless voice that is immersed in darkness and sweeps into it bringing Light.  God creates and we become.  God creates and the world begins to move.  God creates and everything is as it should be.  And then God rested.  This seventh day, this Sabbath, this day of rest, is not the low point of Creation but the veritable climax.  It is the edge of everything that will be, the veritable edge of Glory.  This is the day to sit without doing, to sit without trying to “fix” the world, without trying to “fix” ourselves, and let the peace of God sweep over us once again.  This is the day to sit in the silence and hear the voice that is beckoning us to a New Creation.  Whether we can see it or not, this is the day that we are standing on the edge of Glory.  It is not what we planned; it is not what we envisioned; it is new.  Creation is happening now–in the quiet, in the darkness.

So what do we do today in these hours before the dawn?  Nothing…just rest…and let God create you.

The pilgrims sit on the steps of death.  Undanced, the music ends.  Only the children remember that tomorrow’s stars are not yet out.  (Ann Weems)

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

When We Realized Who We Were

 

The Wedding Feast at Cana, Julius Schnorr Von Carolsfeld, 1819
The Wedding Feast at Cana, Julius Schnorr Von Carolsfeld, 1819

Scripture Passage:  John 2: 1-11

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. 

So do you remember that day at the wedding?  The wedding was grand and glorious.  The bridegroom and his friends made their way in procession to the bride’s house. It was in the dark of night with a spectacular torchlight procession.  Then there were speeches and expressions of goodwill before the couple made their way to the groom’s house for the banquet.  And then the unthinkable happened.  The wine ran out.  Wow, that was actually pretty embarrassing. (And there are commentators that have noted that litigation was even possible in a case like this!  How odd!)  Most of the guests didn’t seem to know what was happening, but Jesus’ mother was in a panic.  And so she looks to her son.  “Jesus, fix this!”  And, miracle of miracles, he did.

This has always been an odd story for me. I mean, really, wine? Why didn’t he turn the water into food for the hungry or clothing for the poor? Why didn’t he end the suffering of one of those wedding guests who were forced to live their lives in pain? Why didn’t he teach those that were there that God is more impressed by who we are than what we do? Now THAT would have been a miracle. But instead Jesus, in his first miraculous act, creates a party, a feast. Maybe it’s a reminder that we ought to just relax and trust God a little more, maybe even enjoy basking in the very Presence of God. Maybe it’s trying to tell us that God is indeed in every aspect of our life. And maybe it’s telling us that life is indeed a feast to be celebrated.

And think about the wine itself. It begins as ordinary grapes. Well, not really. If you go even farther back, you start with water. Are you beginning to see that, really, everything starts with water? And then those ordinary grapes with just the right amount of water, the right amount of sunlight, and the right amount of nutrients fed to them from the rich, dark earth begin to seed. And then we wait, we wait for them to grow and flourish and at just the right time, they are picked and processed and strained of impurities and all of those things that are not necessary. And then they are bottled and tucked away while again, we wait. They are placed in just the right temperature, with just the right amount of light, and just the right amount of air quality, and we wait. We wait and until it becomes…well, a miracle.  And Biblical theologians have over and over pointed to the relationship that this story has with the Eucharist. Think about it. We take ordinary bread and ordinary wine (or in our case, ordinary Welch’s Grape Juice), and through what we can only describe as a Holy Mystery, a veritable miracle, those ordinary things become holy. They become for us the body and blood of Christ, the very essence of Christ to us, for us, and in us.

And remember that when the wine ran out, Jesus did not conjure up fresh flagons of wine. Rather, he took what was there, those ordinary, perhaps even abandoned vessels of ordinary, everyday water and turned it into a holy and sacred gift. Water and a miracle…Wine is water–plus a miracle.  But in case it is lost on us, remember that our bodies are roughly two-thirds water. No wonder the ancient sages always used water as a symbol for matter itself. Humans, they taught, are a miraculous combination of matter and Spirit—water and a miracle—and thus unique in all of creation. No wonder that wine is such a powerful, sacramental, and universal symbol of the natural world—illumined and uplifted by the Divine. Wine is water, plus spirit, a unique nectar of the Divine, a symbol of life.  And we, ordinary water-filled vessels though we are, are no different. God takes the created matter that is us and breathes Spirit into us, breathes life into us. We, too, are water plus a miracle. 13th century German mystic Meister Eckhart said that “every creature is a word of God.” It’s another way of reminding us that we are water plus a miracle, beloved children of God.

Jerusalem is just within our reach.  Our journey holds it in sight.  And so to prepare for what is to come, we remember who we are.  We remember that time that seems like only yesterday and also a lifetime away when Jesus showed us who we were.  And thinking back to this day, thinking back to that first miracle, we realize that it’s not about wine; it’s about us.  This was Jesus’ lesson in who we are.  It’s a reminder that WE are the miracle–created matter, water-born and Spirit-breathed.  We ARE the good wine, saved just for now.  We are water plus a miracle.

There are only two ways to live your life.  One is as though nothing is a miracle.  The other is as though everything is a miracle. (Albert Einstein)

There are only days left in our Lenten journey, days left to gather ourselves for the Cross.  Who are you?  Who were you created to be? What would it mean to live your life as though you were a miracle? 

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

 

When We Started to Become

WaterScripture Text:  Mark 1: 4-11

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”  In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Looking back from our journey, we remember, we remember the day that we started to become.  At this point, we remember that day in the Jordan, all of Creation dripping from the sacred waters. And, yet, that whole idea of Jesus being baptized is sometimes odd for us.  After all, part of what we associate with baptism is forgiveness.  How can one who is supposed to be sinless be forgiven?  But the fact that Jesus was baptized only suggests that Jesus associated himself with the need to gather God’s people and to prepare for the Lord’s coming with a gesture of repentance, an entrusting of oneself wholly and completely to God. It also reminds us that Baptism is not about us. We cannot baptize ourselves. It is about God’s presence in our life.

I think the Baptism account from the Gospel According to Mark is my favorite.  Only in this version do we hear of the “heavens being torn apart”—not opened for a time as in Matthew and Luke—but torn apart. The Greek word for this means “schism” (which, interestingly enough, is similar to chaos, similar to what God’s Creation ordered.). It’s not the same as the word open. You open a door; you close a door; the door still looks the same. But torn—the ragged edges never go back in quite the same way again. At this point of Jesus’ baptism, God’s Spirit becomes present on earth in a new way. A brand new ordering of Creation has begun. The heavens have torn apart. They cannot go back. Nothing will ever be the same. Everything that we have known, everything that we have thought has been torn apart and that is the place where God comes through. And the heavens can never again close as tightly as before.  This is when we started to become.

This story of Jesus’ Baptism calls us to remember our own. It is more than being showered or sprinkled with remnants of God’s forgiveness.  It is our beginning, our very “becoming”, as the gift of God’s grace washes away those things that impede our relationship with God and gives us new birth, new life. Just as God swept over the waters when Creation came to be, God swept across the waters so that we would become.  And it calls us to do something with our life.  But I actually don’t remember the day of my baptism. It happened when I was a little over seven months old, on Palm Sunday, April 15, 1962. It was at First United Methodist Church, Brookshire, TX and Rev. Bert Condrey was the officiant. I had a special dress and lots of family present. That would be all I really know.  And yet we are reminded to “remember our baptism”. What does that mean for those of us who don’t? I think “remembering” is something bigger than a chronological recount of our own memories. It is bigger than remembering what we wore or where we stood or who the actual person was that touched our head with or even immersed us in water. It means remembering our very identity, our creation, what it is that made us, that collective memory that is part of our tradition, our liturgy, our family.  It means remembering not just how the journey began but that in its very beginning we became part of it.  And now this same journey takes us to the cross.

That is what “remembering” our baptism is. It’s not just remembering the moment that we felt that baptismal stream; it is remembering the story into which we entered. It is at that point that the Christian family became our own as we began to become who God intends us to be. And for each of us, whether or not we noticed it, the heavens tore apart, spilled out, and the Holy Spirit emerged. And we, too, were conferred with a title. “This is my child, my daughter or son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”  You are part of something beyond yourself, beyond what you know, and beyond what you can remember. Rainer Maria Rilke once said that “the future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens.” Your past now reaches far back before you were here and your future is being transformed and redeemed in you even as we speak.

After he was baptized, Jesus stood, dripping wet, to enter his ministry. The heavens tore apart and poured into the earth. All of humanity was there in that moment—those gone, those to come, you, me. So we remember now how we still stand, wet with those same waters, as we, too, are called into ministry in the name of Christ. It is up to us to further the story. This day and every day, remember your baptism, remember that you are a daughter or son of God with whom God is well pleased and be thankful. You are now part of the story, part of this ordering of chaos, part of light emerging from darkness, part of life born from death. You are part of God’s re-creation. And it is very, very good.  This is the journey for which we live; this is the journey for which we were created; this is the journey that gives us Life.  And, in this moment, we remember when we started to Become. 

Your life is shaped by the end you live for.  You are made in the image of what you desire. (Thomas Merton)

On this Lenten journey, we continue to gather our past into our Lives and we remember what made us, remember when we became who we are, when we began this journey.  What does it mean to you to “Remember your Baptism”?

Grace and Peace,

Shelli