First Sunday after the Epiphany
God often appeared, in Hebrew tradition, at significant moments and landmarks in the people’s imaginations. Mountains, rivers, and deserts were locations where God’s people encountered God’s power and presence. Jesus comes to receive John’s baptism in the Jordan River steeped in the history of this place. The Jordan was where God’s people were called to begin a new life in a new land. As Jesus comes out of the water, dripping wet, God is powerfully present and speaks words of affirmation to his beloved Son.
Do we sometimes overlook the ways God is moving in the world today? Waiting for some mystical event, we fail to recognize the ways God is revealed in the ups and downs of everyday life. God may be revealed to you in a night sky, a field of wheat, a baby’s nighttime cry, at the bedside of a dear one, on a lake, or the mountaintop. Many young people in our church experience God’s presence through summer camping and youth gatherings. We often talk about these experiences as “high points” or culminations instead of a commissioning that calls them to into discernment and engagement with God’s mission in the world.
Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan is not a culmination of his ministry but represents its beginning. God’s confirmation is the start of an incredible journey. Jesus’ steps beyond this moment are what lead him to the cross and beyond. Experiencing God’s presence in this way empowers him to step out in ministry and invite others to join him in faith.
We often miss this step in the church too. We tend to perceive affirmations of faith (baptism and confirmation) as ending points rather than new beginnings. At the start of a new year, may God’s presence be revealed to us anew with the blessing-commission to join in the ongoing adventure of Christ’s mission.
Tracy Pryor, pastor, Great Kills Moravian Church
Staten Island, New York