Rev. Deborah Rundlett is the pastor of Ridgebury Congregational Church.
Scripture: Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 (NRSV)
As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’
The Baptism of Jesus
Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
Reflection: Entering The Mess
Have you ever wondered why Jesus chose to enter the mess? He didn’t have to. He could have kept his distance, looking down from afar upon the crowd who had flocked out to John seeking forgiveness for their sins. He who was without sin could have stood at a distance, not getting caught up in the chaos. Yet on that riverbank, he makes the conscious choice to enter the fullness of our condition.
It is in that precise moment that God’s pleasure can no longer be contained: “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Take note of the Creator’s joy as the Son throws away his separateness to enter into our brokenness. He who is without sin becomes one with us in our pain. It is then that the Spirit descends, filling him with an awareness of his true identity as the beloved Son. Only as Jesus heeds God’s call to take on our suffering does God flood him with awareness of his unique relationship as the only-begotten Son and anoint him with the Spirit for his mission; not before. It is the same for us. Only as we step out in faith will we receive confirmation of our core identity in Christ and God’s call.
When Jesus chose to plunge himself that day into our condition, he revealed that nothing shall separate us from the love of God (see Romans 8:31-39). What a profound moment of truth for us! In his baptism, Jesus embodies God’s love for us even as he challenges us to follow him into the mess. From the prophets on, God has called us to seek the Shalom of the cities to which we have been sent in exile (see Jeremiah 29:1-11). Jesus models this with his baptism as he enters into our brokenness.
This is the axis on which the gospel turns. The same movement of surrender that opens us to intimacy with God, also opens us up to compassion with all who struggle and are in need. To be open to the Spirit is to be open to humanity in all its brokenness and its ardent yearning for wholeness.
Incarnate One, help us to enter into the mess.
To know the need for it.
To embrace both the joy and pain of it.
To surrender our separateness,
Only to discover ourselves in you. Amen.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prayers of Intercession:
- For those grieving or suffering after a shooting in a bowling alley near Los Angeles on Friday which left 3 dead and 4 wounded
- The many federal workers who are currently working unpaid or temporarily furloughed and finding it difficult to meet their financial obligations
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For the peace and joy time with family can bring
- For those who will (or have already) celebrate the birth of a child in 2019
Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:
Ivoryton Congregational Church, UCC
The First Congregational Church of Essex, UCC
First Church Congregational, UCC
Greenfield Hill Congregational UCC
Falls Village Congregational Church
This Week in History:
Jan. 7, 1789, (230 years ago) The first United States Presidential Election was held. Voters consisted only of white, property owning men. George Washington won the election and was sworn in in April of that year.