Here we go again; Jesus defying social norms, laying waste to expectations, and placing himself outside of what society and religious community anticipate the Messiah to be. We have the reinforcement that Jesus comes from the “wrong side of the tracks” with the reminder that he came from Nazareth. Rather than staying home and carrying on Joseph’s trade after settling down with a nice wife, we see Jesus cavorting in the wilds with his social outsider cousin, John the eater of bugs and bee byproduct. Even after joining the community of faithful who flock to the enigmatic John the Baptist, Jesus once again makes heads shake by choosing the desert wilds, following the call of Spirit.
Sometimes Spirit calls us louder than society. Sometimes Spirit speaks in a voice more powerful than expectation. Sometimes Spirit moves inside us in ways that can’t be ignored.
Even in today’s “modern” world, it doesn’t make much logical sense to be a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. As a woman who loves other women, in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania I can legally be denied housing or evicted from my home, fired from my job, and denied medical care or commercial services just because of who I love. I have spent much of my life feeling like I am in the wilderness, right along with the wild beasts…and the angels. I am not a member of the LGBTQIA+ community because it is trendy, convenient, or easy. I am who I am because I believe in, celebrate, and follow the God who knit me together in my mother’s womb and who told me I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am who I am because the call of Spirit was stronger than the call of the world, and even if the world turns its back on me, I will remain with the Jesus who said his baptism is for me.
God, we thank you for the promise of the rainbow. Jesus, we thank you for your inclusive love and radical welcome offered in baptism. Spirit, we thank you for guiding us to our authentic selves and unique destiny. Send your angels to walk alongside your LGBTQIA+ beloveds, in the world and in the wilderness. Cradle each of us in your welcoming waters, that we may follow your example, and show love and celebration of differences devoid of prejudice and fear. Amen.
Throughout the history of the church, the good news of the kingdom of God coming near has not always included everyone. As the church, we have often excluded the people who don’t act like us, look like us, identify like us, love like us, or speak our language. Throughout our history, the church has been complicit in the slave trade, colonization and extermination of indigenous people, as well as excluding and labeling as abominations people whose sexual identity didn’t match the “norms” decided upon by civic or religious leaders.
Jesus’ call to repentance, Jesus baptism, is a reminder that we are all in this together, and Jesus has come. Emmanuel, God with us, has entered this world so that the world may be saved through him.
Jesus baptism physically shows us that Jesus is going to live in and experience this world just like the rest of us. Jesus’ baptism is one of solidarity and loving acceptance. This is especially poignant for any who were then, and are now, traditionally marginalized by our culture and religious institutions. Jesus doesn’t need to be forgiven of sins, Jesus doesn’t need to repent, Jesus doesn’t need to be part of the body of Christ… he is the body of Christ. When we enter the waters of baptism we are welcomed into that body in full solidarity and salvation.
As we see throughout scripture, this is one of many examples of how God always initiates the relationship; God first comes to us, God first accepts us, and God invites us to respond. What parts of our lives do we need to repent from, turn away from, to better focus on God’s call to love God and love our neighbors? How can we imitate God’s example of initiating relationships with those often marginalized and pushed away from the church? What barriers do we need to break down, rip apart that keeps us divided?
God of divine relationships, God of acceptance and love, we thank you for your love freely given to us. Drive us outside our comfort zones in order to include all people in your work of reconciliation, acceptance, and peace. Amen.