Baptism of Jesus Proof by He Qi https://www.heqiart.com/store/p59/17a_Baptism-of-Jesus_Artist_Proof.html

With God’s Help: Lenten Reflection (30)

Scripture for Today: Luke 3:21 – 4:13

The first time I set foot in an Episcopal Church service was for the baptism of my friend Kristen’s child, Ryder. I was immediately struck by the communal and collective rhythm of the service. Prior to attending the service I had been on a year hiatus from church — I left a more conservative branch which had an individualistic bent to their spiritual practice. In that church, were all trying to out-Jesus one another by praying more, knowing more scripture, or singing the loudest during worship.

The communal nature of this new Episcopal church was especially present in its collective commitment to uphold Ryder and to live the Way of God alongside him. Towards the end of the service the congregation articulated their commitment through the words of the Baptismal Covenant:

Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
I will, with God’s help. 

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
I will, with God’s help.

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
I will, with God’s help.

I was struck by how much the commitment depended on God rather than self — no one was expected to do it alone. This blanket claim of our humanity is one of the reasons I’ve stayed part of the Episcopal community. There are certainly those who stray from this generalization, but the majority of the Episcopalian community maintains their commitment to God while living very human lives.

And, for a faith tradition looking to follow Jesus, this isn’t too far off the mark.

Today’s gospels emphasize the human nature of Jesus. In his baptism at the River Jordan we meet Jesus as a companion on the Way who, like us, made a commitment to turn from the ways of the world and follow God. In the wilderness we see Jesus tempted by the human desires for comfort, power, and wealth, yet he remains committed to God.

Stories of Jesus’ humanity fill the gospels: his friendships, his hunger, his frustrations, his sadness, his anger, his longing for God’s favor, etc. These stories give us a way of meeting God that is not wrapped up in perfection or in theology, but in the vulnerabilities and practicalities of human life. In Jesus we can claim a new human identity. This identity  is rooted not in the fleeting nature of this world but in the eternal way of God. This identity  restores us to right-relationship with God and one another, through the Christ.

This identity inspires us to follow the way of Jesus, with God’s help.

Prayer: Open me to your help.

Reflection: Where can you connect to Jesus’ humanity? Why does it matter to you that he was human?

Art: Baptism of Jesus Proof by He Qi

Additional Reading:  Unedited version of the Episcopal Church’s Baptismal Covenant.

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