So when I was driving home from work one day this week it was raining. It was thunder storming actually and it was a really warm day.
If you are like me, you have a love/ hate relationship with thunderstorms. I love them when I am safe inside and secured from getting wet, struck by lightning, and am out of the wind. I love to watch the clouds and listen to the booming thunder and the rain on the roof. BUT, I hate them, too. It's terrifying to drive in a bad storm or be in a place where the rain, lighting, and water damage is destructive and life-threatening.
And now this weekend we are expecting snow. Water in a different form. Beautiful and wonderful for skiing and other winter sports - bad for road conditions and rooftops, trees, and power lines.
So, water is both essential and needed - and yet destructive and scary. And there are many stories in the Bible that illustrate both. This week all the lectionary scripture passages contain some mention of the element of water.
The gospel passage for the week is the story of Jesus' Baptism and John the Baptist - which of course also involved water. And John, himself, is also quite like water in that he was many things at once. He was a God-chosen prophet who came to prepare the world for Jesus and his message. He was so influential, in fact, that his followers wondered if he was the Messiah. But John was also someone who was known as a really weird dude who lived in the wilderness ate locusts and had a tendency to yell a lot.
Read Luke 3: 15-17, 21-22
This baptism story is one that we know well. But this week as I reread the version from Luke's gospel, I was surprised to recognize that some things are different from the children's story Bible version that I am used to hearing and telling.
Stories about Jesus that appear in more than one Gospel are often combined together in their retelling. The details from each particular version get blurred and we end up remembering and telling a homogenized version of the story. So, just for fun take a read through Luke's version of the story and see if you find anything that you haven't heard before.
For me, the big thing that it is different from the versions in Mark and Matthew is that Luke does not say who actually baptizes Jesus. In the verse before Jesus is baptized, scripture says that John is locked up in prison.
Also in this version, Luke also connects baptism with prayer by saying the Jesus was praying when the heavens opened up and the dove appears. Throughout the Gospel of Luke, the time Jesus spent in prayer is well documented and highlighted more so than in the other gospels.
So, is Matthew and Mark right? Is Luke right? Does it actually matter to us who specifically baptizes Jesus?
For me - no, not really. The most important part of the story is that Jesus is received and recognized by God as his child. His beloved. "You make me happy," God says to Jesus This part of the story is the same. And Jesus, just like everyone else in the crowd - is welcomed into the family of God.
The story of Jesus' baptism includes water - which can be both life-giving and destructive. And John is both a wise prophet and crazy loner who lived in the woods. So here are the questions that I am thinking about this week:
- What are some things in your life that are like water? Essential and life-giving but also scary and destructive?
- What are some ways in which you recognize or feel like you are a part of God's family?
- How can we "Get Ready" every day to receive and share God's love?
Here are the other lectionary passages for this week. Give them a read and look for references to water and different forms of it.
You can also read more about John the Baptist in Matthew 3: 1-17