What’s Up with Pastor Todd 1-7-22

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 1-7-22

On the church liturgical calendar this coming Sunday, January 9–the Sunday after Epiphany, we celebrate the Baptism of Christ. Why do we celebrate Jesus’ baptism?

Jesus’ baptism is an invitation to each of us to live out our sacred calling to this very life. Your life, your calling, is inextricably bound up in God’s great work of healing the world. And no onee else can do it for you. Your sacred calling is not separate from your ordinary, everyday, miraculous, and unique life. 

Jesus was baptized as an adult by his relative, John, who had followed God’s call to live in the wilderness as the prophets of old had done. Scripture says he wore camel skin for clothing and ate locusts and wild honey for food. For a time he separated himself from society so that he could get closer to God. Then at the prompting of the Holy Spirit he called people to join him in the wilderness. He administered baptism to them to prepare them to have their own personal encounter with God. 

The Gospel of Luke describes Jesus’ encounter with God at his baptism: “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened,  22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased’” (Lk. 3:21-22). We celebrate Jesus’ baptism to remember this divine affirmation–“with you I am well pleased”–and to consider the possibility that this “yes” might extend to each of us as well.

I am a very competitive person. I have an unhealthy habit of comparing myself to others. Professionally, I compare my level of “success” to my colleagues’. Even on a personal level I find myself wondering “Should I be happier? Are my relationships healthy enough? How does my faith compare to others?” Social media takes these tendencies and makes them much worse. I know I’m not the only one. You may remember late last year Facebook was in the news because a whistleblower revealed that Facebook’s own internal research has shown that their Instagram platform is having negative mental health impacts on young people. Young people are comparing themselves to the images they see on Instagram and seeing themselves in a negative light. The recent “Great Resignation” may be a sign that more of us are questioning a system that brings profit logic to ever more intimate areas of our lives.

We celebrate Jesus’ baptism to remind ourselves that there is another voice in the universe that says, “Yes.” As powerful as our inner critics might be, as powerful as the voices of consumer capitalism might be, there is another voice, a voice that in the beginning said, “Let there be light,” a voice that saw all that God had made and said, “It is very good,” a voice that spoke from heaven at Jesus’ baptism and said, “You are my child, the beloved with you I am well pleased.” In this Epiphany season, I invite us to embrace God’s “yes.” I invite us to drop the comparing and competing and make space for the Holy Spirit to lead us each into a calling that is uniquely our own. As author Oscar Wilde famously said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” 

Author: toddyonkman

I am a husband, father, author, and Transitional Senior Minister of First Congregational Church of Granby (CT).

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