Wednesday, January 7, 2009

This week's scriptures are Psalm 29 and Mark 1:4-11.

Do you remember the old question that became repeatedly famous in both the Nixon and the last Bush administration: "What did the president know, and when did he know it?"

The story of the baptism of Jesus raises a similar question for us. "What did Jesus know about His call to present the Kingdom of God, and when did He know it?" Did He grow into His understanding? Did it come in a flash? Or was it something that was there all along?

In Jesus' milieu it was not unusual for persons to hear voices. Nor was it unusual that those voices would quote scripture. What was critical was the passage that Jesus heard. That Jesus would hear the words of Isaiah might well have helped to focus His understanding of His call. The picture that Isaiah paints of what the messiah would do and be was one of inclusivity and compassion...themes that pervade Jesus' teachings and ministry.

There are a number of reasons why these questions might be important to us. One of them has to do with the idea that Jesus experienced life like we do. Very few of us come into the world with a clear sense of who we are and what we're called to be. Some of us spend the greatest part of our lives trying to find our place. For many it takes almost a lifetime. Winston Churchill was in his 60s before he came to the task that his whole life seemed to be moving him toward...prior to that time, to call him 'unsuccessful' would be a kindness. That Jesus would come into the world with an immediate, clear understanding of who He was and what He was to do-all from the very beginning-leaves Him outside the human experience of growth and struggle.

A second reason is the fact that once He got a vision of what He was called to, Jesus followed it clearly....even when it alienated Him from the religious structures he had grown up with. Such an understanding of call, and our responsibility to it once heard, offers us a powerful example. Jesus listened; and when He heard, He obeyed.

We'll spend some time Sunday exploring this further. We'll also be celebrating the inclusiveness of Jesus' ministry as we gather for Communion.

I hope to see you then.


Anonymous said...

Interesting questions, Stephen! I would challenge the idea that Jesus' call was really all that clear, despite his familiarity with Isaiah.

If we do identify his experience with our own, then we know that basic (though far-reaching) instructions require great effort and thought to actually live out in all the discrete and interconnected events of our lives. Makes me think of the difference between a recipe and a cooking method (maybe Stephen's pancakes vs. Jeremy's pancakes?)

If anything, this approach makes me even more connected with Jesus' experience. We are told/asked to live a certain way (or ways) all the time by knowledgeable pastors, friends, family, scripture, books, etc. We can hardly be ignorant of it. Does that make our choice to live how we do any easier, even if we trust the promise (as you've said many times)? It involves conscious decision-making at every turn either way, I think.

I'm sorry I won't be there in person to listen this week, but I'll listen to your thoughts shortly afterward!

Anonymous said...

I'd never thought about when Jesus realized who he was; I assumed he always knew.

But you bring up a good point that that realization process could have been part of his human experience.

Well, I'm snowed in, so this is my church for the day. Thanks for the food for thought!

Anonymous said...

The anonymous one was me. I don't know why my computer did that!

Jeremy said...

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