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Down to the river

by davesandel on January 10th, 2021

Sunday, January 10, 2021                   (today’s lectionary)

The Baptism of the Lord

Down to the river

Here is my servant, my chosen one upon whom I have put my spirit. He shall bring forth justice, but without crying out. He does not make his voice heard in the street, he will not bruise a reed or quench a smoldering wick. I have called you as a covenant, and a light, to open the eyes of the blind and release those who live in darkness.

Jesus knew these words of Isaiah, knew them from childhood. He carried them everywhere in his heart. I wonder if he knew even then how the words were all about him. Jesus walked through the desert sand to join a throng of men and women listening to his cousin, John the Baptizer. From far off he coud hear the ringing words of John: “I baptize you with water, but the one coming after me will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!”

All you who are thirsty, come to the water. You who have no money, come and eat, be renewed with the everlasting covenant.

Jesus saw the line of people going down to the river to pray. Who shall wear the starry crown? Good Lord, show me the way. He watched John dressed in his camel skins wade into the water and turn toward the shore. He beckoned and they came, men and women one by one. Many were weeping.

Jesus’ heart broke as God’s compassion for Jesus’ fellow humans rained down on the Jordan River. Jesus joined the line.

Just as the rain and snow come down from the heavens and water the earth, which gives seed to the sower and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth.

John sees Jesus, recognizes him his cousin and is nearly burned by the light shining from his face. John can barely breathe. Oh sisters and brothers, oh mothers and fathers, let’s go down, come on down. Down to the river to wade deep in the water, to pray and sing and never stop. We are not worthy, Lord. You should be baptizing me! O praise you, Father, who has given us heaven and earth.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters. The God of glory thunders, and in his temple all say, “Glory!”… Then as Jesus was baptized he saw the heavens torn open and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son, and with you I am well pleased.”

John saw the dove, and Jesus heard the words. Jesus knew more now than he had known before. He received the freedom to teach and heal, to open the doors of the Kingdom of Heaven and invite everyone in. In all this he knew the temptation of power, and so for forty days he retreated further into the desert and saw no one except his Father.

John the Baptizer watched him leave. He saw the change in his face and was glad to have been there, to pull his cousin up from the deep waters, steady Jesus as he stood up on his feet. John held his hand, and then he let him go.

(Isaiah 42, 55 and 12, Psalm 29, Acts 10, 1 John 5, John 1, Mark 1)

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