Happy New Year people! It seems appropriate to be saying that as we reflect on the Baptism of Jesus. Baptism being the sign of us dying to our old self and being born afresh as God’s child.
As I was reflecting on this reading I was thinking about how intense it must have seemed. The famous John the Baptist baptizing Jesus, who was actually really nervous because this was the “Messiah” and he didn’t feel worthy to do it. With the water splashing everywhere the clouds depart and the Spirit descends like a dove. Then a voice from heaven says “this is my son in whom I am well pleased”. It reminds me of the amazing times I have had where I know something special has happened but sometimes it is a bit hard to explain and can often make you feel like you may just been a little crazy or just imagined it and yet there is something in it that cannot be denied! In the book the Shack, the Holy Spirit is a woman, but you can’t quite see her, you know that she is there but even when you look at her you can’t quite make her out. I really like this description because for me it fits, the sense of – I know there is something there but it is hard to put words on.
I found it interesting that in this moment there is God the Creator, seen through the parting of the clouds and the voice, the Holy Spirit, descending like a dove, and Jesus, the physical embodiment of God, but the Church (the gathered people of God), are also present in this moment, the hand of John is actually between Jesus and the Holy Spirit. As has been the case throughout history, humanity can either be the conduit for the work and movement of God or they can block it.
In my ordination vows, I promised to submit myself to the discipline of the Church and I feel that in this moment, Jesus allows himself to be part of the process, he submits to the discipline of the Church. Here for me is the beginning of the long humble journey of Jesus. He never put himself better or above anyone else but saw that he too needed to be born anew into that God life.
I think sometimes we underestimate the importance of God using us to make disciples, to be the conduit for the Holy Spirit in others. This miraculous moment of God happened after the faithful, shared and did what they know. As difficult as it is to describe faith and we can at times feel as crazy as John the Baptist out in the desert eating honey and locusts, what we have is a beautiful gift of which many people in the world are desperately in need of . I would go so far as saying what our whole world needs, i don’t believe we are able to bring peace to the world on our own strength, I don’t think we can turn the damage to the earth around due to great thinking and innovation alone. It will never be enough, because people can be selfish, greedy and scared. Myself included. It is through humility and submission to a vision that is greater than ourselves (that of God’s), with the hand of another alongside us, and the Holy Spirit hovering upon us, then there is hope.
The new year is often a time of thinking about what we could do differently , what we shall pick up and what shall we put down. I wonder how often the resolutions we make are actually a reflection of the values that are destroying the world rather than bringing hope and peace? I wonder for Christians whether it is a time to head to the wilderness, away from the excitement and see how we need to better tune into that vision of God, because after all if we die to our life and are born as God’s, surely then it becomes God’s new year resolutions we need to follow?