Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 – The Baptism of the Lord – for Sunday, January 10, 2016
“. . . and the Holy Spirit came down on him in bodily form like a dove. And there was a voice from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.’” (Luke 3:22)
I want to convince or coerce all Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Shintoist, Sikh, Taoist, and Zoroastrian followers to “come to the Jordan.” I scheme to get those in the tiniest of faith traditions (which don’t qualify for Wikipedia articles on the world’s major religions) to join at the symbolic shore of the river of life. And, I pray, please God show me to how to coddle or throttle the non-believers—those latter day Nones and Naysayers professing no belief—to also be present for some wet and wild dunking.
Make them all come to the river, to come to Jesus, to come to their senses about the one who was and is the beloved of God.
Have I lost my mind?
Lost my way?
Or have I finally found my way, since becoming an underpaid, over-privileged purveyor of the Gospel, I’ve advocated inclusiveness. I’ve supported interfaith efforts and have learned from my brothers and sisters in “different” religions. Never have I claimed Jesus as the only path to God, nor perceived that my Christian beliefs were exceptional when compared to different-from-mine beliefs.
But when reading the daily headlines and reading Luke’s account of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, maybe it’s time for a change.
Let other religions find my religion.
And yet, it is not “them,” but me I want baptized.
Again and again and again.
Every holy day.
Every hurting and hurtful day.
Let me claim and reclaim being beloved.
Of God. For God. Because of God.
Let other believers, following paths I barely understand that bring purpose and meaning to them, witness my daily, even hourly, baptism.
What! Have I become a harmless ranting heretic?
Isn’t one baptism sufficient? Have I also abandoned that theological foundation? Yes, there are fellow Christians who believe baptism should occur more than once—full-time and fervent sinners that humans are—but in my mainline, United Methodist, and old-fashioned comprehension, once is enough!
But daily please.
Because I’m tired of the headlines and the hurt.
I’m tired of places like Paris and San Bernardino appearing in the same sentence for the worst reasons. I dread the next cities added to the sentence. I’m sick of constant war. I’m guilty of complacency. I’m ashamed of American or Christian exceptionalism.
In my mid-sixties now, my earliest memories about the world always include war. Young men stumbled off to Korea. Nuclear weapons were a button push away from launch while I was instructed to cower under a classroom desk. A crisis around the Suez Canal was my first “lesson” about the Holy Land. Folly and failure in the Bay of Pigs taught me how America treated its neighbors. Vietnam, first buried in the boring back pages of newspapers, eventually became a blood-soaked headline haunting every damn day of my teen years and beyond.
War. After war. And more war.
I live in an empire that creates and uses sophisticated weaponry like drones that will never win any victory against a simple box cutter wielded by a fanatic.
We live in a world of fanatics and fear-mongers, seemingly hell-bent on hatred.
We live in a world of politicians and powerbrokers, seemingly hell-bent on revenge. Did President Obama, a person and leader I admire, really say, “Turns out I’m really good at killing people” when talking about the American emphasis on drones? I fear he did.
The British pastor and columnist Giles Fraser wrote,
“The war on terror is now in its 15th year. And yet things are demonstrably no better. Why? Because we still have no vision of what peace might look like.”
Who has a vision for peace? Why do we think pummeling, humiliating, and destroying the other guy will bring peace?
Please, come down to the river with me.
Witness me baptized. Witness every complacent, war-waging, exceptionalist-thinking, privileged Christian getting baptized so they can remember their baptism. How easily we forget, we followers of Jesus, that serving others is the way we’ve chosen. We wash another’s feet, regardless of their color, creed, or stink. We give our Patagonia coats and Panera bread to others. We turn the other cheek until we’re dizzy. And then we keep turning for Christ’s dizzying sake.
We follow the Prince of Peace. God forgive me, forgive us, for we how have forgotten who we follow.
And so let everyone see me enter the Jordan. Let the terrorists and the tea-partyers, the radical jihadists and the gang members with Glocks in their back pockets, and the grumblers who want to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and the gung-ho types who want to carpet bomb Syria, let them witness me being immersed every day in the symbolic Jordan.
Even though I’m only a harmless, naïve heretic.
But how I despise the headlines, and the realities and delusions they represent. So much hatred. So much agony. So much anguish.
When Jesus entered the Jordan, the heavens broke open. A voice only of Love, only of Hope, only of Mercy, only of Forgiveness, announced, “You are my son, whom I dearly love.”
Heretic that I am, I believe all are dearly loved.