John 1:6-8,19-28 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.
This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” as the prophet Isaiah said. Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.
Reflection Let’s leap to the bottom line message of the text. God is born and revealed in humankind. The thing is, we would rather not hear this news because with it comes too much responsibility. We want a Messiah, a Savior, a super hero, someone else meant to do the heavy lifting of making the world a better place. We want a God of mythic proportions to break into space and set our world straight. A well timed, medium size apocalypse would be great. But, alas and alack, that is not our story. Ours is a story of baptism.
Please look with me into the glassy still water of an alpine lake or the unruffled surface of a pool. What do you see? Yourself. Your reflection looking back at you. Let me suggest a nuanced way to consider baptism. What if John, a man send from God, is leading people, all people including us to look into the water of our baptism and ask ourselves, “What do we see?”
By our baptism we see who we really are. Sisters and brothers in the family of God, One people, without division. Members of One body, the bearers of the Kingdom of God on earth. In our baptism by water we see that which we seek is already right here. In that glittering recognition we claim our inheritance, the Spirit of God, the One that comes after, the Christ born again, and again in each of our hearts. God is born and revealed in humankind. This is our baptism by water and the Spirit.
The question the priests and Levites from Jerusalem pose to John, “Who are you?” is the very question we must ask ourselves. “Who are we?” If we say we are Christians, what does that mean? Are we the continuing revelation of God’s light bringing hope to all people? Are we purveyors of God’s peace, working to dislodge discord and repay hatred with friendship? Are we curators of God’s love, redressing animosity and neglect with tenderness and respect? Are we human epiphanies of God’s joy, delivering comfort and cheer in the face of suffering and sorrow? Are we fulfilling our baptism by water and the Spirit by being bearers of hope for this troubled world of ours? How are we showing the world that God is born and revealed in humankind?
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