Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 104; 150, Isaiah 40:1-11, Hebrews 1:1-12, John 1:1-7, 19-20, 29-34
Baptism of the Lord readings:
Isaiah 42:1-9, Psalm 29, Acts 10:34-43, Matthew 3:13-17
John the Baptist dedicated his life to preparing the way for the Messiah. When Jesus came to be baptized, John hesitated and said he was unworthy – that Jesus should be baptizing him. Jesus reassured him all was as it should be. According to the Gospels of Matthew and John, the heavens opened, the Spirit came to rest on Jesus, and a voice declared, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
This story begins a consistent portrait of Christ throughout the Gospels. Though he is the Messiah, Jesus remains humble. Despite his disciples’ protests, he washes their feet at the Last Supper. As the crucifixion draws nearer, he doesn’t ask to be exempt from the laws or the courts. When we accept the baptism of the Spirit, we accept that to be our greatest, we must become the least.
Christ-like leaders don’t expect special treatment, see themselves as above the rules, or shift blame and accountability. They don’t expect more of others than they do of themselves. Recognizing leadership as a servant’s burden, they accept the consequences of doing and saying the difficult but necessary things, and approach the role with humility rather than hubris. In baptism we are made equal, and whether our role is prince or pauper we are endowed with dignity and enslaved to service.
But equal in theory is not the same as equal in practice. John the Baptist, quoting the prophet Isaiah, says valleys must be filled and mountains leveled to make straight the path of the Lord. Justice doesn’t begin with equality, but with recognizing everyone doesn’t start from the same situation. Asking two people to each roll a boulder a mile sounds equal, but when one is facing uphill and the other down, it just isn’t so. Justice is never a simple declaration, but the difficult construction of a wide road, then the willingness to travel side-by-side.
The waters of baptism wash the scales of injustice from our eyes. Like Christ, let us see beyond a status quo that settles for fair into a future that is truly just.
Comfort: In Christ we are all equal.
Challenge: Each day this week, ask yourself how you can be a better servant.
Prayer: Bless the Lord, O my soul; praise the Lord! Amen.
Discussion: Have you known of examples of where treating people “fairly” is different than treating them justly?
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