Baptism of the Lord & Epiphany

Epiphany is a little known Special Sunday in the Christian Church. On this day, January 6th, we celebrate the “revelation” of Jesus to world, especially as it was marked by the coming of the Wise Men to visit the Christ Child. The Sundays following Epiphany are known – no sarcasm here – as the Season after Epiphany.  Those Sundays go until Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the season of Lent. One other special Sunday celebrated in the Season after the Epiphany is Baptism of the Lord Sunday. The following is a reflection on Jesus’ Baptism based on the reading from Luke 3.

I can still feel the coolness of the water as it pours over my heads, rolls onto my shoulders, and causes me to halt my breath for just a moment. The words of Rev. Hinzman are muffled but clear, “…of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

I stand before the congregation, wet with the waters poured over me at Baptism. Some are smiling, some are joyous, and some just look bored. I catch a glimpse of God’s Kingdom: people I know, people I will never know, old, young, rich, poor, gay, straight, female, and male. When they join their voices together it is as if the heavens open up and God proclaims: “We give thanks for all that God has already given you and we welcome you in Christian love…that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”

I did not know then all the paths I would travel on the road of discipleship, but I began it with words of hope echoing from the very mouth of Christ’s body, the church. The memory of those words are my source of hope from day to day.

I cannot help but be glad to read that God’s own Son had hope filled words fall upon him at his baptism as well: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

God’s voice spoken from heaven or spoken by the Body of Christ are still seeds of hope.

Ash Wednesday 2018

“Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion – do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.

“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers — most of which are never even seen — don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

Matthew 6:28-34 The Message

I Worried
(by Mary Oliver)

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, with the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not, how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,
hopeless.

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.

from Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver

 

Yep. I. Needed. That.

Scott Sears, Ash Wednesday 2018

Crowded Place

I have been in some very large crowds. I’ve been to Disney and the Harry Potter theme park and those were very crowded locations. I have been to a college football “bowl game.” Granted, it was the “Continental Tire Bowl” but still, it was a very large crowd. I’ve been to JFK airport…now that was a crowd. It seemed especially crowded when my visit there fell at the same moment my nine month old daughter, Leslie decided it was time to learn to walk. My  toddler. Busy people. Not a good mix.

Perhaps the most crowded place I ever visit, though, is my own mind.

I can’t even begin to list all the people that are there and the noise that takes place in that venue of my life.

There are, of course, the voices of people long gone. My grandparents all reside there in some shape or form and they pop up when I least expect. Sometimes Uncle Joe, Uncle Gene, Uncle Rodger or Marsa show up with them. They are not ghosts. They are more than just voices. They are something of the crowd that makes up the world inside my mind.

There are plenty of living people there too. My entire family takes up a good deal of space. Sometimes they are arguing. Sometimes they are encouraging. Sometimes – I think these are my favorite times – they are just there. They are just there bearing witness to what else is going on in my life. Absent in body, but always a filter for all that I experience in some way.

There are of course good friends there. I can’t leave them out. Some are not very present in my life but they are always present in my thoughts. Dan? Haven’t seen him in years and years, but I think we could strike up a conversation in about three seconds flat. Stephanie, Brad, Johnna, Mark and Amy…well, they are always there too. I see them more often but their presence lingers as it should.

Of course, there are some who reside in my mind that at times I would love to evict. But I can’t. And I probably wouldn’t if I had the ability. These are the ones who taught and teach me difficult lessons in life. Some of them are people I have hurt terribly. Some of them are people who have hurt me. Some are both. I long to be in contact with many of them…but, well, I know I can’t or won’t or something.

And there are bunches of people from my “neighborhood.” Some of those voices are friendly and some are not so friendly. Sometimes I have trouble telling the difference. I know some get angry with me at times, but that is normal. I am a leader after all. I can’t even please the shadows that reside in my mind, let alone those who are real and outside of me. One in particular is cropping up a lot lately. Sigh. I wish we could agree to love Christ together despite our difference.

I can’t forget all the unreal people there too. People I have picked up as I have read some novel or watched some television show. Their voices entertain and inform me. Tyrion, Harry, Lilly, Frodo, Eragon, Deitrich, Albus, Morgan and Mother Abigail…that list is almost endless. Joining them are these new folks I am meeting from my own brush with writing fiction. Most of those folks I don’t know well although some of them I trust and some of them scare the crap out of me.

I heard today that Jesus cleared the temple so that it could be the space that was supposed to be holy. I was asked to do the same with my mind so that it could just be me and Jesus.

Don’t think that is going to happen in this lifetime. It’s a crowded space, my mind. It’s crowded because my heart opens to just about everyone I meet and my imagination is fueled by meeting them. Then, when I seek my own inner introvert, there they are, ready to energize me anew!

Perhaps instead of throwing them out of this temple, I will just start introducing them around. “Jesus, this is Tyrion. Tyrion, Jesus.” This could be quite amusing!!

However, I am blessed and thankful for each and every voice that has become a part of mine. Thank you. I pray that you enjoy your visit.

an abandoned vessel

cropped-img_2234-e1353720642505an abandoned vessel

An empty water jar bakes in the heat
in a place where people are called
“sin-filled.”
My Lord sits beside it,
tracing his finger around the rim.

I join the other followers as we come to him with our food.

Someone gave him something to eat?
Someone gave him something to drink?
Surely not.
Not here.

We are among those people.

Yet Jesus says he does not thirst.
Yet Jesus says he is full.

Why do I focus upon my definitions?

 Of hunger…
Of thirst…
Of those who are sinful…

My Lord sits by the edge of a bottomless well
tracing his finger
along the edge
of abandoned definitions.

Based upon John 4:5-42

Inspired by www.pray-as-you-go.org for March 22/23, 2014