Saturday, January 8, 2011

"Beginnings" – Reflections on Matthew 3:13-17

Beginnings – Reflections on Matthew 3:13-17 
Read Text Here: Matthew 3:13-17
“I can hardly wait!”  How many times have we heard these words and how many times have we said or thought them ourselves.  Usually this phrase occurs in the context of looking forward to an important event or when one is working towards a goal.  “I can hardly wait!”  "I’m finished!"  We spend so many years in school, for example, finally we reach graduation and it is over!  It is accomplished, we are done!  ……… Now what?   “Aye, there’s the rub.”  This is the difficulty with our goal-driven society: once we have achieved the goal, then what?  What do we do now?  How many of us end up feeling lost after that kind of major achievement!  I have known so many high school and college students who, once they have been graduated spent the following years completely lost and uncertain. 
We have spent the last six weeks in our worship on prologues, primarily in Matthew, but also in Luke.  The Christmas story in Luke is a prelude or prologue to the story of Jesus ministry and passion; and the Nativity accounts that fill the first two chapters of St. Matthew are also prologue.  So, finally, we come this morning to the Baptism of Jesus in chapter 3 of St. Matthew and Jesus is now grown.  The prologue is over.  Jesus comes to the River Jordan and is Baptized by John – finally, the story is done!  Well, no, not really.  Actually the story is now beginning!  The Baptism of Jesus is the beginning, not the end!  From here we will follow Jesus as he preaches and teaches and heals and reaches out to so many people in Palestine; we will listen in on Jesus’ arguments with the religious authorities of his day and be there as he gets frustrated with his struggling disciples.  We will stand on the road through the Golden Gate in Jerusalem waving palm branches and crying “Hosanna!”  We will sit with Jesus in the upper room, pray with Jesus in the Garden, stand in the shadows watching the trial before Pilate and watch silently as Jesus is crucified.  We will accompany the women to the empty tomb earlier in the morning on the 1st day of the week.  Is it over then?  Nope, then the story really starts!
The story of God Incarnate, born into our world as Jesus, the Messiah is the “Never-Ending Story!”  It may have many moments of finality, but those moments all double as new beginnings as the story goes on and on and continues into our own time today!  Our lesson today – the Baptism of our Lord – is the conclusion of the birth/childhood prologue; but it is also the beginning of a new part of the story, it is the beginning of Jesus’ ministry!
How easy is it for us to see endings in our lives as final.  Even in our spiritual lives, how easy is it for us to see Baptism or confirmation as being final.  How easy is it for us to say to ourselves: Well, we are done with that, we have accomplished that, we are now “graduated” from church.  How sad, when there is a life filled with spiritual opportunities and growth and learning and experiences which await, if only we can see these gifts (Baptism and Confirmation) as the start of something new – a New Beginning!  Those words spoken by God, “This is my beloved son, in him I am well-pleased!” can be read as “Good Job, take a break now!”  But it might be more accurate to the biblical account to read them like this:  “Good, work – now it’s time to get started!”

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