Jesus on the Loose.1

by admin on January 14, 2014

Reflections for 11 January 2014
Luke 3: 15-22

Uncle Buss joined the Navy at 16. Grandma lied to the recruiter. His name: Wesley Ellsworth—first thing was a tattoo…lots of them. He’s dead now, but they lasted him a lifetime—his identity makers on the road to manhood.

Guy at the gym with praying hands on back work in progress. He’s a marine vet—first thing was a tattoo…lots of them. Identity makers on the road to manhood.

Ethiopian women cross on forehead since infancy. Identity makers on road to womanhood.

Tattoos are in. At least until you’re 40. My asks about identity makers…as does most chat room clearing houses. Trendy, up and coming, personal statements identity markers of various kinds.

Liturgy of Baptism child of god, you have been sealed by the HS and marked with cross of Christ forever. Marked forever. Kinda like being tattooed.

What does it mean to be tattooed, inked, and marked with Jesus? The answer is in two more Questions: Did we get baptized; or do we live baptized? I got baptized how many here? I am baptized? The difference?

I got baptized: I’ve done hundreds of those over the years. A memorable one was when I lead 12 adults in a swimming pool.

But they all got dried off, dressed and then we ate dinner. Now what? They all wen t back home……to what?

I am baptized.

A couple of months ago I conducted a brief prayer service at a local funeral home. A friend’s mother had died and I was asked to say a few words. What few words? I read these: When we are baptized into Jesus Christ, we are baptized into his death. We are buried, therefore, with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we, too, might live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (Romans 6)

The Gospel writers in the Bible record Jesus’ own baptism. Luke has an interesting version: Interesting in the minimal details—–

• Luke doesn’t mention the place
• Jesus’ baptism talked about in a dependent clause where Jesus is part of the crowd
• Just says: Jesus was baptized
• First big event: the sky opened up…

Couple things.

1. Holy Spirit comes upon Jesus and marks his ministry. Nothing happens in Luke without the Holy Spirit. Spirit will also mark church and empower it. Message: like a dove descending. RSV/Gk.: bodily form===grounding the experience in reality.
2. Voice from heaven. Psalm 2; Is 42 – combined sovereignty and service.
3. Right after, Jesus is in wilderness for temptation, testing. This is where rubber hits the road.

In baptism we meet the visible, public, particular, very much embodied nature of Jesus Christ in the church. Baptism is not one time event when we happened to be a kid, but it is the basic reality of Christian faith. For so many of us Christianity = information; Christianity is transformation. Difference between info and knowledge. Latter is through experience. That time of testing.

Transformation means change. Isn’t that what we say our Nova—our faith community—is about? Our Vision? Ordinary people making an extraordinary commitment to practice the presence of God in our daily lives. How?

Margaret Wheatley. Leadership and the New Science. Talks about three necessary things must be present for lasting change to occur—not only in institutions, but more fundamentally, people…individuals. We forget that every human institution—Congress to church is filled with people. And that it’s people who stand in the way of change and growth.

Thee necessary things are Identity⇒ constant clarification if it; Relationships; learning community⇒ where experience becomes wisdom.

Identity. Christians don’t become Christians through interior self-realization; nor through course credits; nor filling our membership application. Christians begin to become Christians through a process of public initiation.

Baptism is a ritual of initiation. Every Christina group does it. But more than that, it imprints the fundamental pattern of Christian life on believer. That fundamental pattern? Jesus Christ.

We also get washed. As washing it symbolizes:

• Purification
• Forgiveness
• Bath of rebirth, regeneration, resurrection
• Taking off old clothes = leaving behind old self

Relationship and learning community.
This pattern of initiation marks the path of Christian discipleship and spirituality. Not only for us as individuals, but also as a community whose life demands movement.

That movement is constant and progressive. Underneath all the changes that “church” has seen in the last 2000+ years is this movement.

• From slavery to freedom;
• Fear to boldness
• Death to life
• Darkness to light
• Selfishness to generosity

Compassion, Forgiveness, Generosity, Humility, Hope —the pattern of the living Jesus Christ as guided by the Holy Spirit.

Our growth in the spiritual life is not about learning new revelations (LDS), or adding new practices; but understanding ever more deeply and enacting ever more consistently the gift that has been given to us by God.

We got baptized once; but we are a community that is being baptized every day.

How does this all work together? Willimon’s El Salvador baptism story.

What’s your identity markers on whatever road you’re traveling? You’ve been sealed by the HS and marked with the cross of Christ forever. That forever begins now.

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