First Sunday after the Epiphany - Baptism of Jesus, Year C

Isaiah 43:1-7
Psalm 29
Acts 8:14-17
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

Do you ever find yourself waiting for your perfection to just descend from somewhere? Or do you imagine yourself a work in progress? But really, are you ever finished?

This past week in worship, Pastor Heather described God's call on all of us as not just for one of our gifts or some bit of our time. No, God asks nothing less than all of us. But that can be a bit disturbing. At least in our own little world, we tend to be full of understanding about our deficiencies: We don't have the time to do that. We don't have the skill to do this. We don't have the compassion for this work. We just can't seem to measure up.

And yet, in our readings this week, there is an important reminder. We are God's beloved creation, called by name. If we accept that we are people of the Spirit and we accept God's grace in our lives, what can we possibly NOT do for the Kingdom? Honestly, if you and I are really that known and loved by the Creator of All That Is, why should we think such diminutive and defeated thoughts of ourselves?

Now that is tough to swallow - and not just the burden of it. What is sometimes tough to swallow is the grace, the acceptance, the Love in which we can wrap ourselves if we choose to accept it.

The prophet Isaiah is speaking to Israelites who were in the midst of serious and varied unrest (Assyrians attacking, kings frequently changing, etc), and he is reminding them that God is faithful. God has called the people Israel His chosen, and as such, they can pass through troubling times again and again. And surely there is example upon example of times when the Israelites or Job even little old "we" have been stuck in troubled circumstances. But in those times, have we been forgotten by God, or have we merely forgotten that we are God's? It is not as though bad things don't happen. But the reminder from the prophet is "Do not fear, for I am with you..."

The psalmist calls listeners to give God credit for God's ability. It is a reminder to recognize God's power and presence at every turn. And it ends with a petition. "May the LORD give strength to (the LORD's) people! May the LORD bless (the LORD's) people with peace!" What role do you suppose we each have in how we receive strength or peace from the LORD? What happens if we are given Strength or blesses with Peace, and we cannot see, or are not willing, to accept it?

In the readings from both the Acts of the Apostles and the gospel of Luke, we begin to see this week's story taking shape. In Acts, Peter and John have been sent to Samaria to be with the people who had accepted God. Their task is to pray that, beyond acknowledging God's power and presence through the teachings of Jesus, they might receive the spirit. We get the impression that receiving the spirit would empower them differently. The church received the spirit and was able then to move beyond a quiet movement, it was able to communicate across ethnicity and geography differently. God's movement expanded through the spirit.

And in Luke, we witness John's baptism of Jesus. The account tells us that the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove and a voice was heard to say, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased." How many times do we hear that sort of affirmation in our own lives. Is it possible that it happens and we do not hear it? What could we do if we believed that we were truly beloved and pleasing with every ounce of our being? What couldn't we do?

God, for some reason we like to
cover our eyes and block our Your Light.
You call us Worthy and Loved
and we plug our ears.
Somehow we have taken the virtue of
We would rather remind
ourselves and
of how unworthy and unlovable
we think we are.
Forgive our Piety.
Forgive our refusal to believe.
We know we are
We know we are
We know we are
You have told us.
You have shown us.
Be patient with us as
we find it is safe to
unplug our ears
and uncover our eyes
and accept
Your Love.

© matt & laura norvell 2009 www.settingourstones.org
we want to share this with you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be with you.

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