OK, so it's been a full week since I have put anything new up here on this blog. It's not for lack of wanting to write. It's that I haven't known exactly how to tackle this latest topic that has been bouncing about in my brain.
This past Sunday, we had the story of Jesus' baptism. And, much like how I was not necessarily ready for the birth of Christ at Christmas this year, the baptism story hit me in a way that I wasn't prepared for either.
Here's how Luke's gospel presents the event:
As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, "I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."
Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased." --Luke 3: 15-17, 21-22
I have been thinking about this idea of the dove descending down on Jesus, and the voice from on high saying, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased." I have heard in church sermons where priests have noted that, at a baptism in these days, we don't have this same drama of doves and voices from heaven. And while that may be true, that doesn't mean that at baptism, as each new member in the Body of Christ is made known to the corporate body of the Church through the act of water and sealing with oil, that there isn't a voice announcing in a language unheard, "You are my Son or Daughter, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased." It also doesn't mean that we, who witness this act, are not also being reminded that we, too, are the Sons and Daughters, the Beloved; with whom God is well pleased.
And then, what happens next?
This is the part that has been really dogging me these past few days. That dove, a sign of peace in our culture, descends on Christ, and he is driven out into the wilderness where he is tested and tempted. You could say he is on fire. He's metal held between tongs in the flames, with God, the alchemist, ready to pound, shape, and prepare him for what is to come. And this is a little like what I feel I've been experiencing lately.
I am restless. And I feel that in my restlessness one of the things that is happening is that I'm being shaped and formed for whatever is next. I can tell myself I need to be prepared, but that gets me back to how I've been experiencing the seasons: I am really not prepared, or at least not prepared in the way that I think I ought to be. Time to let go... and allow myself the time I'll need in the wilderness to wrestle with whatever it is that holds me back.