The Baptism of the Lord
LK 3:15-16, 21-22
January 13, 2019
These days, in the USA, those two little words evoke some powerful and vivid images, not to mention emotions. “The Wall” are two little words that are politically charged and deal with the issue of border security.
For generations, in The Holy Land, those words, THE WALL, has, likewise, aroused powerful emotions. The image, however, was and continues to be more than a plan or proposal for a future structure. To the Jewish people, THE WALL brings instantly to mind what remains of The Temple of Jerusalem.
One of the wonders of the ancient world, The Temple, is equally as significant to Christians as to the Jewish people. It was the setting of many of the most dramatic events in the life of Jesus Christ.
Joseph and Mary, when the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. (Luke 2:22)
When He was 12 years old, The Holy Family traveled from Nazareth to The Temple to celebrate the Passover. Without telling anyone, Jesus remained behind, as the rest of His family set off on the journey home. His frantic parents returned, searching for Him, and expressed their concern to Him when He was finally found. His response should enhance our appreciation for The Temple and for what remains of it: THE WALL!” How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49)
Toward the end of His earthly life, Jesus repeated those words as He drove money changers from The Temple.”…stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” (John 2:16)
The Temple was the site of much of Jesus’s teaching and preaching and the place where He performed many miracles. And so, THE WALL most certainly deserves the reverence and respect of Christians and Jews alike. On the other hand, Jewish people believe that The Spirit of God dwells within the stones of THE WALL. That might well be the case. But, as we bring this Christmas Season to a close with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, we would do well to consider where else the Holy Spirit dwells. The events at the Jordan River direct our attention away from The Temple, first to Jesus, and then inward, to ourselves. Consider what Isaiah the prophet tells us in our First Reading: Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end. In Baptism, our service begins!
Through our Baptisms, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in each and every one of us. Moreover, we are called to continue the mission and ministry of The Lord, Who was the cornerstone that the builders rejected. (Luke 20:17) On top of that foundation, The Lord placed Simon Peter, The Rock on whom our Church was built. And then came us!
Those two simple little words: THE WALL, conjure up different images for different people, evoking powerful emotions. For me, they offer a perfect image of discipleship, and a reminder of what it means to share in The Baptism of the Lord.
We are not the remains of something once built by human hands and then destroyed by human aggression. We are a LIVING WALL that continues to grow and stand firm because our foundation is Christ. Each of us is like a stone, thoughtfully placed by The Master Builder so that we can add to the strength and beauty of THE WALL. The purpose of this WALL is not border security, but rather, spiritual protection, preventing an invasion by “godless ways and worldly desires….and lawlessness.”
But at the same time, God does not intend that we be a barrier to prevent people from entering; rather, within our confines, there is an atmosphere of peace, justice, and love which we should be eager to share with those who are eager to be part of what we stand for. We are living Temples. We will continue to stand and grow until Christ returns in Glory, because within us, The Spirit of God lives!