An Open Affirmation

#SundayCoffee #Lectionary
An open affirmation: you’re more than you seem, and you are loved.

The baptism of Jesus.
This week’s lectionary readings include the gospel passage where Jesus gets baptized. It’s an interesting scene for a variety of reasons, one of which being because it raises questions. Baptism is for people who are repenting. They’ve come to an awareness that their life needs to change, that they need to give up on somethings, stop doing some things, and turn to a new way of life. The baptism marks a washing away of the old, and a rising of the new. It’s associated with forgiveness — all part of that mental awareness of failures of the past. Yet we’re told Jesus was sinless. (Christian theology demands that he be so that he can be the perfect sacrifice for our sins — if you accept that line of thinking.)

But baptism is also for people who are entering a new stage of life. It is symbolic of a new birth, embracing a new purpose, about accepting that, from now on, you’re essentially a new person. I wonder if that’s how Jesus understood it. From this point on, Jesus’s life as he knew it, changes. He is no longer just the son of Mary and the carpenter from Nazareth. He’s on a mission.

The scene is loaded with supernatural images — as is the entire Bible, of course. Our sacred texts describe for us a world that is saturated with the mystical, with encounters with the divine, with angels, with voices and visions, with miracles. They remind us that life is comprised of a lot more than just our mundane day to day activities of survival: more than just eating, drinking, working, and sleeping. The world is alive around us, radiant with activity just beyond the visible spectrum, perhaps subtly calling to us, whispering our names. “Come and see, come and play.”

As Jesus is coming up out of the water of baptism, he has a vision. He sees the heavens torn apart, split open, and the Divine Spirit descending gently upon himself like a dove. And a voice calls from that split heaven, “You are my beloved son. I am well pleased with you.”

A supernatural event. Heaven being split open is visual image symbolic of a door being opened into the Great Mystery, that something new is about to be revealed. And that revelation is an affirmation. Affirming Jesus. Telling him he is more than just flesh and blood, and that he is loved.

We all need that. We all need to have these encounters from time to time, where we see heaven split and we hear a voice — either audibly or in our spirits, a gentle whisper affirming us and telling us we are loved.

There’s a saying that mystics of every religion speak the same language, and while our theologies may differ, all mystics encounter God in the same way: as a Lover.

This is what we see here in Jesus’s baptism. The gentle descent of the Spirit upon him, like the lighting of a dove. This is significant. The divine whispers, rarely shouts. The Spirit settles gently, rarely seizes. It acts like a dove, not an eagle. It is a tender lover, more than a tornadic force that overpowers.

May you encounter that gentle touch and that inner voice, affirming you as a child of the Divine. And may your life be filled with a new vision, a new purpose, that inspires you to live a life of love. Because in that, God is well pleased.

ref: Mark 1:9-15
Image by 6689062 from Pixabay, cc