A reflection by the Rev. Dr. Robert R. LaRochelle.
Scripture: Matthew 3:13-17 (NRSV)
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented. And 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. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased."
At the beginning of this New Year, I think it is extremely important to allow ourselves to get in touch with the depth of what it means that Jesus was human! Now, that may sound simplistic, but we have just come through a season wherein many of the stories and much of the language about Jesus portrayed a Jesus whose importance was deeply connected to the presence of divinity within Him. As much as I love Christmas imagery and the Christmas stories, in both word and song, as I do, it strikes me that unless people are exposed to some intentional teaching about Jesus, it is kind of easy to lapse into an understanding of Christianity which so downplays Jesus' humanity that, in turn, we are robbed in a sense… robbed of an ever deeper appreciation of divinity than we might have by just yielding to a limited knee jerk response to that incredibly deep and multi layered question: ' Who do you say that I am?'
At some point, all of us as human beings need to make some decisions about the direction of our lives. I am not just talking about what career we are going to choose, though choice of career in a very real way does express something about the core of who we are. But it is that core, i.e. how we see ourselves, that is ultimately of most importance. So, on the most basic human level, in going to the river and standing with the poor, marginalized, and disenfranchised of His day, in allowing Himself to be baptized with a baptism that expressed with whom He saw Himself identified, Jesus made a statement about the direction of His very human life, a direction He would live out in the very short time He still had to live.
What is the direction of your life and of mine? Is it connected as Jesus' was to the inner stirrings of God within? How does it shape our choices? How does this profoundly human action of Jesus, the action of going to the river and declaring who He was, really… How does this action speak to us and speak through us?
God within me and around me, whether I am seeking direction or seeking the courage to make that direction known in word and deed, at this early point in this new year, I open myself to your presence, indeed, your very spirit, this spirit embraced by Jesus, in whose name I now pray! Amen
Rev. Dr. Robert R. LaRochelle is an author and UCC pastor in CT. He is currently the pastor of
Christ the King Lutheran Church in Windsor, Connecticut.
Rev. Dr. Robert R. LaRochelle is an ordained UCC clergyperson who has served churches in Union and Manchester, Connecticut, as well as ELCA churches in Windsor, Wethersfield, and Plainville, Connecticut. He also worked as a teacher and counselor in ...