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Psalm 29, Isaiah 42:1-9, Matthew 3:13-17
Baptism. What is it? Is it something we do, or something we receive? Is it something we choose, or does it choose us? Is it something we can understand, or it is beyond our grasp – as children, and maybe even as adults? 400 years ago baptism was something that was deeply divisive in our culture and in our denominational diversity. We strongly disagreed in who could be baptized, how it was done, and who should do it. Even in the early church, the same tension existed. 1 Corinthians 1:10-18 tells of the dispute over who gave the better baptism, Paul, Peter or Apollos. Yet today, baptism is most often cited in our culture in the expression of “baptism by fire” to signify jumping in and trying something new without any sort of preparation.
Psalm 29 : The other OT scripture for today is Genesis 1:1-5. Psalm 29 echos that poetic retelling of how God created all things by his WORD. The VOICE of the LORD is a synonym for WORD [LINK: Logos of God | in Creation Narrative]. God seems to act intimately and personally with all things, less commanding, then speaking things into being, dialoguing and creating in coversation. It’s by his voice that God makes himself known, it’s in speaking that she reveals herself. We know God, and can know God, because God communicates with his people for our instruction, redemption and well-being.
Isaiah 42:1-9 : This text is an announcement from God to exiles (in Babylon, and maybe us today). It asserts two gospel-born realitities: 1) that God has a powerful resolve to do “new things” and 2) that the Servant of the Lord is the means whereby God’s newness will be implemented in the world. It is Yahweh, not the Servant, who will transform creation. From where does the Servant draw strength? With whose voice does he speak? With whose breath, or spirit, does he breathe? Wha kind of message of hope is this for the exiles to whom it’s addressed? To us, you today?
Matthew 3:13-17 : The gospel author retells the story of the baptism of Jesus by John. What do you notice as you read it? What strikes you, or confuses you? What is this voice from heaven? Who hears it? For whom does it speak? And what does it say?
In this week of reflection, I’ve been struck by two videos making the rounds on Facebook, which talk about some of the voices that we hear in our culture, society and economic system today. The first is actually a commercial, pointing ironically to the onslaught of mixed messages that we harmfully allow our young girls to suffer under.
The second is a video made about the mixed messages we give to young men and boys about what masculinity means in our culture. Both point to the way in which it’s hard to hear the Voice of God in the cacophony of voices with which we are inundated each day.
The last video is of a song by British rocker Lily Allen entitled “The Fear”. It’s explicit, and is a poignant statement, made through sarcasm, of the fear that we suffer under and live from in our society because of the confusing voices that we hear.
In all of this I wonder why we would even doubt that we would struggle to hear the Voice of God in our lives, communities and discipleship. There are so many competing voices, with differing messages that we struggle to even hear the basic word that is addressed to us in baptism: “you are my beloved child!” “I have loved you before you knew me, before you could choose me. You are mine.”
Questions for Going Deeper:
How does these texts – from scripture and spoken in our culture – interact with each other? How do they talk to us about hearing the voice of God in the world today?
What do you hear when you listen for the Voice or Word of God in your own life, for direction, for peace, for consolation, for guidance?