As we begin a new year and new century, we explore the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. In all four of the Gospels, the very first public representation of Jesus is when he is baptized by John in the Jordan River. Immediately following—with some differences depending on which Gospel is read—there is divine acknowledgement and even naming/claiming of Jesus.
As we consider Matthew’s text in Sunday’s worship, note the opening of the heavens and the presence of the Spirit of God. Finally, God claims Jesus as God’s son. It is my own ongoing hope to be claimed by the God of the universe.
Matthew 3:13-17 (NRSV)
13Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
Consider these questions:
- In United Methodist tradition, we understand that all Christians are called to ministry of some kind. Perhaps you bring gifts of music, leadership, planning and organization, or something else. But go back to the beginning. How did you begin using these gifts in an expression of ministry.
- If you don’t believe you are using gifts in an expression of ministry, what might God be calling you to do? Related, consider if God might be calling you to do a new thing in addition to ways you already serve.
Post-Worship Update on 1/15
Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found at this link (will open in a new tab).
Sunday’s message began with a bit of confession. In my extroversion, I often appear confident—something our U.S. culture values a great deal—and yet very often that’s not the true sense of my innermost being. I question and I doubt, and most often I question and doubt myself. I am my own worst critic.
I bring this up because I wonder if it’s helpful to know that we all struggle and we all question and we all doubt. I wonder if those who followed John the Baptist out into the wilderness also wrestled in this way, and that a part of the desire for John’s message was a need to feel like the loneliness wasn’t complete.
As I project myself into this idea, it is deeply moving that this is where Jesus chose to begin his ministry. It is not that Jesus necessarily needed to be baptized—even the Baptizer questioned this—but that this community needed to experience Emmanuel: God with us.
In my own personal wrestling, I found hope in two images that were shared online by friends this past week and I share them here now. There is indeed hope for those of us who question whether or not we’ve “blown God’s plan for [our lives]. Humility is a good thing.
And so in consideration of the Christ who comes to where we are, especially when we feel the most doubtful and even the most broken, this is the Jesus who I choose to follow. The one whose company is well kept, who teaches kindness and mercy, and who practices good self-care! May we all be more like Jesus.
Consider these questions:
- What do you think might drive you into the wilderness? Doubt? A lack of confidence? A desire for safety? Some peace and quiet? Do you seek times of escape? What does this look like for you?
- Where do you find comfort and/or peace? Is it in times of escape, or something else?
- Where does Jesus show up for you? How do you experience his presence?