Commentary on the Gospel of
The Baptism of the Lord
When young children come to Omaha’s art museum, docents ask them not to use the volume they might on the playground but to use their “inside voices.” Not only does that keep down the noise that echoes off the marble walls, but the new visitors instinctively know this is a place that is different, and that their enthusiasm and energy can be tempered with a touch of reverence.
Today as we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, we hear God using both “inside” and “outside” voices as he speaks to us. In the first reading from Isaiah 42, God tells us that the servant who will bring justice to the nations will do it quietly, “not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street.” Yet this beloved servant is being sent to open the eyes of the blind and be a light for those in the darkness, quietly serving and loving.
Today is a day to celebrate our own baptisms as well as Jesus’, and to listen to the volume as God speaks to us each day. Our baptism means we are sent by God into the world to carry God’s message of love. Isaiah says that we are sent to bring light and love to the blind, to those who are imprisoned and live in darkness. We are to bring justice to those who are poor and oppressed, in big and small ways, in soft and loud voices.
At our own baptisms, we (or our godparents) answered questions asked by the presider:
What are you looking for? Faith!
What does faith hold out for you? Everlasting life.
The joy of that everlasting life comes as we renounce sin and temptation. But in our humanity, we are too often attracted to the riches, honors and pride that keep us from hearing God’s loving voice.
In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus comes to the Jordan River to be baptized by his cousin, John. As he comes out of the water, God tells him, “You are my beloved son…” In Matthew’s version of the Baptism, the voice of God “thunders” as it proclaims how beloved Jesus is.
Sometimes God’s voice is thundering and loud as if to grab our attention. We, like John the Baptist, often feel unworthy. How can I be sent by God when I am so unworthy, so flawed and imperfect? That’s when God thunders to us to hear what else he is saying: We are beloved! We can’t hear it when our heads are under the water, focused on ourselves and our own sin. It is only when we come to the surface and listen that we hear the loving voice of God, thundering deep until it reverberates in our hearts. You are my beloved! In you, I am well pleased.
Despite our lifelong struggle, or because of it, we are beloved by God in a way that has no human logic. We are held close, cherished and beloved by this God who blesses and sends us out into the world.
Today is a day to celebrate our faith, and baptism, our saving by Jesus and the thundering voice of a God who finds us beloved. Rejoice!