-Fr. Ed Cardoza
I like to call this Sunday liturgical time warp. Last week we were dealing with Jesus as an infant as a child. The kings from the east had arrived and just seven days later we are dealing with and adult Jesus being immersed into the baptismal waters. We are dealing with John, doing John's best, to mitigate the impending desire of many to find out who is the messiah and John, like so many of the pictures that he is depicted in, is pointing away from himself towards Jesus. On confirmation retreat, I think it was one of the confrimands to be hopefully, perhaps Tommy, who said "What happened to Jesus as a child, as a teenager, as a 20-something? Why don't we know much about this?" Now the truth is we know a little bit about it. We know that there are these stories of Jesus running off and getting lost in the temple. We know that some of our Gnostic Gospels, or gospels that are not part of the cannon of the church, or gospels that our church holds being the gospels, indicate something about Jesus. My favorite of which is from the Gospel of Thomas where a bird is sort of smashed into the ground and Jesus goes and grabs the bird and brings the bird back to life. Imagine what it was like being a child and a teenager trying to get your head not only around growing up but also knowing that you are becoming God. I would imagine that Jesus, like most of us, was looking for affirmation in his vulnerability and part of the Gospel story to day, I think, is about that. For we are told in the Gospel that when Jesus has been baptised and has been praying that the heavens open up, a dove comes down, and that a loud booming voice says "This is my son. My beloved. He is mine and I love him and he will do great things. He is a good and faithful servant." All of us in our lives, particularly as we deal with our parents and deal with our extended family and in-laws are often trying to find that affirmation as we stretch out and and begin to wonder how we manage and deal with people growing older, people passing away, transitions in families. All of us desire a sense to be affirmed. You are beloved. You are loved. You are doing well. You have served me well, my son and my daughter. So I think it is important to know that in this gospel we see a very human side of a God who wants to meet us in our own vulnerabilities, in our own struggles, and in our own losses as we partake in the transition that is life. So if you are here today seeking that sense of affirmation I think this Gospel says to you: You are beloved. You are well loved. When you do of my well and return love I am there and I am affirming and holding you and the ones you are preparing for.
The second thing about this reading that strikes me in the Gospel is, if you go back a few weeks ago, there was that moment when Marry showed up at Elizabeth's house and Jesus was still in Mary's tummy and John was still Elizabeth's tummy and there was this incredible meeting in utero of these two historical characters meeting each other. Elizabeth padding it on feels John leaping for joy at the arrival of Mary who is carrying Jesus. It is a very interesting story. But it is particularly interesting when you think today, just a few weeks later, we have that experience of John and Jesus meeting in person, in the flesh. That John is trying to create a highway for God, open up the highway, but he is also recognizing his role. He is not the Messiah. That is good for us who are attending to people. We are not the Messiah. We are not limitless. There is only so much we can do. So much we can tend to. We can give love, but we can't give it in the same way that God and the Messiah can give it because we have limits. God is unlimited and unbounded. So that is the other interesting part of this story. That John is saying I know what my limit is. I know what my vocation is. I know what purpose is. And I know who I am, and I know who Jesus is. I am not going to become the Messiah. I am going to baptize in the spirit*. But Jesus will come. He is the son of God. he will open the way. He will not baptize simply by water. He will baptize by fire. He will baptize by the spirit.
Lastly, some of you may have seen this frontal before. We found it sort of tucked off in the church and I wanted to bring it out today. We were supposed to have a baptism and that family is going to baptize hopefully in the next few weeks but, like most families, we get trough the holidays and things get a little crazy. We'll get to that point. But I knew we would also be celebrating the baptism of the Lord and we'd be hearing this gospel. And as I looked at this, and I encourage everybody to look at this. It is really interesting. It is a very interesting needle point because is it from Genesis God touching the waters and seeing the waters are good? Is it the top half of this gospel story? If you can imagine where the poinsettia are, having an image of Jesus of John. Is it the deliverance moment when God decides through Moses to part the seas? But what we know is, there are some interesting parts to this. We have a hand that is red that's inflamed. Which is usually a sign of God the Spirit. We have that breaking into creation, touching the waters of creation, stirring up the waters of Creation. Then we have those two angels that tend to make an appearance when God breaks into our existence. On the Arc of the Covenant we know that there were two angles bowed into each other for presence and here we have these two angels bowing into each other. Perhaps their hands are extended in sort of a Superman pose and they are flying. Or, I might suggest, that their hands are doing a very important act that is referenced in the Acts reading we had today. This laying on of hands. This laying on of hands which is a profound and ancient acts. It is one of the acts that ties each of our sacraments together. Every Sunday which ever Eucharistic prayer we use when we call down the Holy Spirit you will see my hands go over the bread and wine and that is the symbol of God breaking into creating. God breaking into the bread. God breaking into the wine. And this frontal is important because it signifies that we are the beneficiaries of a God who breaks into our lives. The good parts. The bad parts. The difficult parts. The dark parts. All the parts of our lives God is breaking into. So as we think about these practices of baptism - the immersing into the water - just think about it, what would have it been like to see Jesus, the son of God, taken by John the Baptist, someone who was fully human, and immersed into the river. Once, and back up. Twice, and back up. Three times, and back up. And that water pouring down over the Son of God, and the Son of Man, and prayer being said and the Spirit coming. What would have been like to see that? Was Mary there? Mary who had already seen these angels show up and say "I'm with you. Something great is about to happen to you." And Mary who said "Hold on, how can that be. Don't do that. I need to give you consent." And she does. And the spirit comes. And he is born. Was Elizabeth there? Did she see this baptism? Did some of the people who see it get moved? Were they frightened? Were they scared? What happened? And let's move with that and ask ourselves, here, today, January 10th, 2016, what part of my life needs to have God's hand laid upon it? What part of my life needs to be redeemed and reconciled? What part of my life is asking for healing? All of us, the baptized, have the power to pray, to tend to, to minister, and to care for one and other and in doing so, God shows love. That is where God is. It is true, you have seen it here, many of you. The Bishop laid hands on my head. The priest joined him laying on of hands and I went from being a deacon to a priest. It is true that go and take my own hands and make bread and the wine the body and blood of Jesus Christ through the prayers of this church. The power of God. Through Gods promise that when we do this and remember this, this happens. But it is also true,that when we meet each other in the hallways, when we talk in this church, when we respond over email, when we text one another and say - I know things are hard, or changeling, or difficult or hard and I am there for you - that God shows up, that God tends, that God creates community and that we are affirmed brothers and sisters. We are beloved. God loves us. Let us take that love and always share it with other brothers and sisters to let them know in their mourning, in their challenges, in their difficulty, in their joys, in their loves, that God is there, redeeming, purifying, drawing creation unto God help and saying "All will be well." AMEN