I read the story of Jesus’ baptism at SouthWest’s monthly outreach services in the community this week where some 36 residents attended in three locations. When I left on vacation following Epiphany Sunday with the visit of the Magi at both Emmanuel and SouthWest, Jesus was still young. In a few days it will be Lent and I realized that I needed to hear a gospel story about choosing life before Jesus’ impending death.
At the Jordan (Matthew 3: 13-17, Mark 1: 9-11, Luke 3: 21-23) Jesus asks his cousin John the Baptist to baptise him. John dresses weirdly, eats unusual foods, lives in the desert and preaches with that loud shouting voice like a televangelist, calling his listeners to profound life change. John immerses in water those willing to repent. Jesus is also baptised in the spirit of new life and profound change, and leaves behind his old ways. He rises, determined to live God’s way.
This is a powerful and dramatic moment and the beginning of his ministry. He leaves under the waters his responsibilities as the eldest son, his financial obligation for his mother and siblings. He puts away the work of carpenter whose skill he learned from his adoptive father Joseph. He will no longer have an address, or his own bed or home. He will be like a Buddhist monk begging with his bowl at the door, living off the generosity of others. His only focus will be to live God’s way of radical hospitality and inclusion that will shake up, as John did before him, the social and religious status quo. What an example!
We need the release and power that comes from letting go so new possibilities may emerge.
It is sad news to hear that the SouthWest Mission that for 12 years, and with the generosity of SouthWest congregation, has served the Verdun community out of its rented space in the Verdun Elementary School will close its doors at the end of the school year. The Breakfast Club, community meals, mini market and light filled space have blessed so many.
Sometimes the letting go of ministry, space, or downsizing is following Jesus’ example. As he let go in baptism waters: needs, other more earthly expectations, personal dreams; he trusted God, that one can only move forward into a different future when one emerges from the waters into new life.
Lent is around the corner, as is following Jesus into places of temptation, sorrow and death. For now, we let ourselves be led into the water, to a place of letting go and rising to new life by God’s Grace. To live new life and even profound changes, every day.
“When Jesus comes to be baptised,
he leaves the hidden years behind,
the years of safety and of peace,
to bear the sin of humankind.
The Spirit of the Lord comes down,
anoints the Christ to suffering,
to preach the word, to free the bound,
and to the mourner comfort bring.”
(VU 100, Stanbrook Abby, 1974)
image: Baptism of Christ, by David Zelenka