Baptized with Visions

Scriptures: Matthew 3:13-17, Acts 10:34-43

Let us pray:

Now, O Lord, calm us into quietness. Transform us to be more holy. Turn our hurts into healing, our words into listening our wandering into purpose. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all or hearts plant themselves deeply within, and may your Word nourish them into new growth. Amen.

“The celebration of the baptism of the Lord is traditionally a time to contemplate both Jesus’ baptism and our own. To make sense of both these mysteries, it is also necessary to contemplate the incarnation itself. For Christians of the first centuries of the church, and for contemporary readers who embrace that tradition, neither Jesus’ baptism nor our own makes sense if not considered in the light of the incarnation. Reflecting on how we are restored in the waters of baptism requires reflection on how God created, entered into, and radically transformed those waters. Pondering the reasons for Jesus’ own baptism requires pondering what it means for the Son of God to have become a human. In short, to understand baptism, we must understand the reality, the physicality, of being human, and what it means to say that God saved us by becoming just like us.”[1]

I have it on excellent authority that there is a movement about breathing new life into the process and journey of baptism, confirmation, and commissioning. This is really quite relieving, because in an old school thought, once you were baptized, that was it, that was the end, now you’re saved.

Thanks, see you! And out the door you go, never to enter the church again. Luckily, this journey and process perspective is gaining ground. That’s really what happened for Jesus in his baptism. It was the beginning of coming into his own, of undergoing his first examinations, and the launching of his public ministry. It was a new leaf for him to submit to John, even as John knew he should be baptized by Jesus.

In the Acts reading for today, Peter turned a new leaf as well, even as we have turned into the new year. Post – resurrection, Peter is a different man. We begin to see the depth of how deeply God has changed him with this confession. Today’s reading is actually a culminating speech after stories and experiences of visions sent by God. The first Divine visitation happens to a devout Gentile centurion named Cornelius. An angel of the Lord speaks to him, and tells him to send for Simon Peter so that he may hear what Peter has to say.

About a day’s journey away, Peter has just completed a mission, culminating in the miraculous resurrection of a faithful disciple named Dorcas in Joppa. While there he receives a three-fold vision about clean and unclean foods – which turns out to be a metaphorical message not about food, but about God’s multicultural, multi-ethnic acceptance of non-Hebrew descended people into the new reality of the Heavenly Kingdom. Peter, greatly troubled, is meditating on this when messengers sent from Cornelius, a devout Roman centurion, arrive to inquire of him-immediately placing Peter into his first examination after the new revelation from God.

Peter, a devout Jew to which Jewish law prohibits associating and mingling with Gentiles, invites these foreigners into the house upon hearing their request, and extends the hospitality of lodging to them. Peter, a Hebrew man who has followed Hebrew law all his life, now allows the hospitality code to cover these Gentile visitors sent from Cornelius; giving them food, drink, and overnight accommodations.

Peter’s vision and action show how deeply and immediately his own growth and conversion, if you will, begins to occur. The next day he gets up and goes with them the days’ journey back to the home of Cornelius. There, Peter is greeted by the centurion falling at his feet before him in worship. Instinctively, Peter knows this is not the posture to take, and tells him to get up, that he is only a mortal. Upon observing how many have assembled just to listen to him, Peter reminds them he is breaking the law to associate with or visit a Gentile, but that a higher law is now guiding him – Peter says God has shown him he should not call anyone profane or unclean, and he enters the house and listens as Cornelius unfolds his vision.

In Peter’s wisdom, he listens carefully, and in turn shares what he has come to believe: “I truly understand,” he begins, “that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10:34)

Harry Adams wrote, commenting on this passage,

“This story of the radical transformation of Peter’s perspective and action informs the way in which we can be enabled to transcend the limitations of our relationship with others. Our prejudices are deeply ingrained. Our perspective on what is right and proper in how we deal with others has permeated our whole understanding of who we are. … Our only hope is to be open to the Spirit and to seek ever new understandings of the God who “shows no partiality.””[2]

Let us pray:

O Holy one, you who sojourned among us for a time, guide us in our wandering ways that we might set our feet in your path and see you, the Christ, in the faces of the other, offering divine hospitality to all whom we meet in need. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen? May it be so.

[1] Adams, Harry. Feasting on the Word—Year A (Feasting-Year A);

David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, General Editors. Copyright © 2010 Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc., Version 2.0

[2] Driver, Steven D. Feasting on the Word—Year A (Feasting-Year A); David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, General Editors. Copyright © 2010 Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc., Version 2.0

Questions for Reflection:

In Romans 8:29 Paul wrote that God meant for Jesus to be “the firstborn within a large family.” What does that mean to you? What does your baptism have to do with it?

Household Prayer: Morning

God, you make old things pass away and declare
new things to be.                                                       Isa. 42:9

As I am renewed in my baptism this morning, help me to confirm my baptismal vows in my life today. Amen.

Household Prayer: Evening

Holy One, you stretched out the heavens and
spread out the earth,                                                Isa. 42:5

and in that context I give you this small day
that I have lived.

Now may I sleep, safe and secure in your covenant promise to me that I am your beloved child, in whom you are well pleased. Amen.

About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
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