Last Sunday, on the feast of the Epiphany, we left the infant Jesus lying in a manger being adored by wise men from the east. This week, we assemble to greet Jesus on the day of his baptism and the beginning of his journey to the cross. The comfort and intimacy of new birth has been replaced by engagement with the world about us, by “business as usual.”
Just as Jesus left hearth and home to answer God’s call so we, at our own baptism, have been called into the demands of life in community. For us, this is not a private and personal spirituality, but the raw demand of a world waiting to be loved and our humble response to that need. Each of us is engaged on the work of discernment, of asking what God would have us do, and then asking for strength to do it. It was not easy for Jesus, and the gospel contains no promise that it will be easy for us.
Baptism is our moment of connection to the Epiphany, to God showing God’s self to the world. God’s love is made known in Jesus. As Jesus emerges from the waters of baptism and the heavens open before him the voice says, “You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.” God shows us who Jesus truly is.
Consider: to declare the object of one’s love as “beloved” is to knowingly become vulnerable for the sake of the other. It is a conscious decision. Embracing that kind of love will be costly, evoking both joy and suffering. Equally, to experience oneself as “beloved” of another is a deeply moving and sacred experience. To be beloved is to be the one to whom love has been given without reservation. Such love holds before us the possibility of profound and transforming response; a response taking us beyond anything we could imagine for ourselves. This is the relationship shared between God and Jesus.
At the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord, we are reminded we have become the beloved of God through our own baptism. In claiming that love, we are called to the possibility of profound and transforming response for ourselves and, in the end, all humanity.
The Rev. Susan N. Eaves