January 11, 2004 - Epiphany

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

    [15] The interest of the people by now was building. They were all beginning to wonder, "Could this John be the Messiah?"

    [16] But John intervened: "I'm baptizing you here in the river. The main character in this drama, to whom I'm a mere stagehand, will ignite the kingdom life, a fire, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. [17] He's going to clean house-make a clean sweep of your lives. He'll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he'll put out with the trash to be burned."

    [21] After all the people were baptized, Jesus was baptized. As he was praying, the sky opened up [22] and the Holy Spirit, like a dove descending, came down on him. And along with the Spirit, a voice: "You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life."

[The Message]


1. How many rumors of Messiah have come and gone before John's time. There are records of several and the odds are that there are still more. The Messiah complex is not only a recent phenomena in mental hospitals or Jerusalem.

Here is one place to reflect on this and more (be sure to read the last entry) about the Three Christs of Ypsilanti. And a place to think about the fixation some Christians have about Jesus' return in relationship to Jerusalem.

2. It is so easy to mixup the gift of our baptism, as a continuation of openess to GOD's presence, with having some authority in people's lives. We set up all manner of rules and regulations about baptism that turn it from a means of grace to a letter of the law. It is difficult to consider our handling of baptism as lightly as John - a token of water in anticipation of a great reversal of fire.

Imagine again the flood of Noah's day. GOD's pledge is to not root out evil in such a manner again. Baptism reminds us of that and we can catch a glimpse of a rainbow at every baptism. Remember that it won't be a flood, but fire next time. How is the anticipation of the Holy Spirit's fire any different from GOD's attempt to micro-manage relationships through a flood? Is the external/internal polarity any help here or are we really just talking about an updating of that ancient story? If only an update, will the end be any different than the repentance of GOD?

3. After all that talk about fire, comes a dove with a very different message - chosen, marked, beloved. Here is an early sign that Jesus's way of being messiah is quite different from our religious and cultural expectations. It doesn't have the built-in baggage of the Ypsilanti folk or the Christian Zionists. It comes in a whole new way of beckoning prayer and a way of peace on earth to all people (good-willed or not).