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Jan. 11, 2019 - The Place Where God Meets Us

Friday after Epiphany

Scripture Readings

We are still celebrating the joy of Christmas until the feast of the Lord’s Baptism this Sunday.  Of course, there is much more reflection that can be done, especially while we are still in the season of Christmas.  We began Christmas by recognizing the great joy of Mary, Joseph, the angels and the shepherds at the fact that God had become human, one of us.  But very quickly, the Christmastide daily readings turned us toward the fact that God becoming human didn’t mean that all of our worries and problems had disappeared.  

Some people complain that Christmas seems too piously fake - for once the season is done, all the kindness and generosity people had mustered disappear in the midst of January's doldrums. Is God really with us? we might ask, when the magic of the Christmas season goes away. But today's readings remind us that the feelings of Christmas aren't the point. The point is that God meets us where we are, in all the trouble and muddiness of our lives.Today's readings point us toward the Lord's baptism this Sunday, and cause us to reflect on this point that when God becomes one of us, God's presence doesn't mean problems disappear. Quite the contrary: becoming Jesus' disciple means that maybe even more problems arise. Consider the fact that we celebrated St. Stephen's death day due to his martyrdom for Christ, only one short day after Christmas!

More than that, the readings ask us to begin reflecting on the meaning of our baptism in light of Christmas and God becoming human. The First Letter of John (5:5-13) speaks very poignantly about how the people who will be victors over the world are people who have “the Spirit, the water, and the Blood.”  This passage may seem a bit cryptic, but being victors over the world suggests (especially if you’ve been reading the rest of John’s letter in the daily readings) that we are able to see light even in the darkest places of the world. We are able to prevail against the ugliness and evil that is often apparent.  The Blood mentioned in this verse is referred to earlier in the passage as Jesus Christ. The suggestion is that if we believe in the salvation we have through Jesus’ death on a cross, by his blood, we have moved toward being a victor over the world.  Yet belief is not quite enough.  The passage also mentions that we need both Spirit and water, which point us directly to the necessity and reality of our own baptisms.

When we were baptized, the liturgy proclaims that we died in a death like Jesus' so that we could rise in a life like His. When we were baptized, we were baptized with the very physical stuff of this world. On the day of our baptisms, we were washed with some water, and we were anointed with the Holy Spirit through the Oil of Chrismation. The use of water and oil in baptism are important, partly because Jesus himself was baptized in water, and partly because these elements are meant to demonstrate to us that God works on us through real, tangible things. Just as God came to us in human form, God is still present to us in the tangible, real things of the world.  We meet God in our own environment, amid familiar, tangible things that become a bit strange and new, because God has met us there.

But that means we, too, have the possibility of being like Jesus in our own environment, in our own familiar lives. God can do something new and strange even in the midst of our own lives and the people we meet everyday. When our parish prayer prays that we might think like Jesus, talk like Jesus, and act like Jesus, it is in this very real, fairly unholy world. This is so important, because it reminds us that we do not have to try to be lofty or ultra holy, in whatever high and mighty sense we might think -  (for we will fail). Instead, God is always seeking to meet us where we are, even as we are living our baptisms to be witnesses for God.

Today’s Gospel reading (Luke 5:12-16) should also remind us of our baptisms and of the way Jesus meets us where we are. Today's gospel reading mentions Jesus healing a leprous man - who then goes out to the world and proclaims Jesus. Just as Jesus met and healed the man with leprosy so that he could be a disciple - so Jesus meets us, heals us, and calls us to go and proclaim his good news - which is exactly that God comes to us as us. We do not need to try to be people we are not; we do not have to try to fake holiness. Rather Jesus helps us become the best of our own selves where we are - which then enables us to deal better with problems and crises.

As we reflect on the mystery of God being with us on this earth, and as we prepare for the feast of the Lord' baptism, let us ponder all the ways God is with us now, in these very moments, even in the very ordinary events of our lives. And then, let us seek, even in ordinary ways, to be Christ for each other.

- Jana Bennett