Posts Tagged Mercy
3:13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” [NRSV]
Baptism Text: The text from Matthew focuses on the relationship between Jesus and John and the fulfillment of scripture. It also describes the humanity of Jesus and affirms that baptism is not simply a cleansing ritual, but rather a presence and claim experience between us and God.
We celebrate and practice communion on a monthly basis. Each month we have the visual and tangible experience of finding Christ’s presence and it is a refresher or booster of our baptism.
Our communion table is Christ’s table and it open to all persons, for we are all in need of that grace and power of God’s claim on our lives.
Baptism is not a hoop to be checked-off as a membership requirement, although baptism is a sign that we are indeed members of the faith and joint heirs with Christ.
In Jesus’ baptism, it was not proof of his divinity, it is affirmation that we all need to be claimed by God.
Have you been baptized?
Do you remember?
I do not as I was only three months old and wore a linen dress on a hot south Georgia Sunday. Some strange man took me from my mother’s arms and poured cold water on my head and dress. Messed up my hair and caused me to scream and cry my eyes out. Finally I was returned to my father’s arms and was soon blinded by flash bulb from my grand parents who were then scolded for taking pictures in the sanctuary.
When I was thirteen I wore my sued chuck-a-boots, lime green leisure suit and parrot-paisley knit shirt to gather at the alter with my confirmation class lead by Sergeant Elizabeth Smith. I don’t know if she was ever in Uncle Sam’s army but she was certainly in the Lord’s Army and she prepared us to answer the perfect answers to the questions of examination of the faith. I don’t know if anyone at that altar that morning had a Paul-on-the-road-to-Damascus experience, but we were well dressed, well prepared and knew exactly where to stand.
It was more likely that I felt the presence of God’s Spirit in a recognizable way, for the first time, while a camper at Camp Glisson a year after my confirmation.
Divine Divide of Grace and Time
In the Matthew Text the timing between the human-to-human conversation and ritual of coming to John at the river is not about a confession of sinfulness for Jesus.
- 1. John’s invitation to believers and followers was to turn toward God, repentance. It is a spiritual alignment.
- Placing ourselves aimed toward God, from where ever we are and face where we are going and becoming in God’s grace.
- 2. There is the response of Jesus accepting the ritual and practice of belonging to those who need God’s claim of their lives.
- There is a transformation from John’s invitation to get cleaned-up to Jesus’s choosing to commit his life to the ministry of God’s choosing. So the water becomes not only cleansing; it also is a preparing for part two of our lives.
- 3. Is God’s claim of our willingness to place our lives and trust in God’s hands and heart.
- This is my child. When we are baptized, we also become child of God.
This is My Child
The most powerful part of the text is the claiming part of baptism. God declares, this is MY child. This person that John baptize is claim by God, not by John. Baptism is not so much a church ritual as it is a divine parental defining of our identity and relationship with God. We are the kids, God is the parent. We are the family together.
Questions and More Questions:
So are we not Children of God before we are baptized?
The simple answer is no, but that is not a completely helpful answer.
Yes we are children of God’s creation, filled with grace and hope of becoming one who chooses God’s heart to guide our lives. But God does not force the inheritance upon us. But it is ours for the taking.
The Door is Open
Think of Baptism as a doorway. You can walk in and see the life God has prepared for us. And once you have seen it you know what life God has for you. It is reflected in the life and teaching of Jesus.
We might think we can walk through that door, but the only way to undo awareness of coming of age is to choose rejection or apathy. But the Door of Baptism never closes.
There are those who would teach that you better utter the magic words, “I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior” before we draw out last breath because then it is too late. But they does not actually follow with a Gracious Parent who crosses the chasm of death to make a way for us.
A View from the Lap of God.
If you are seated in God’s lap, embraced in arms of love and mercy, kneely at the feet of the one who breathed breath from your first and last, if you look into God’s eyes and say: “I want no part of you, let me go.” I believe God lets us go.
If you are face to face with God in judgement and God asks, “Do you love me” and we reply “I hate you.” God does not force us to love.
If we are faced with the full picture of our life filled with failures, fears, sins and struggle and we say “Lord have Mercy” Why would God of Grace revert to the ways of the Law? God will have mercy
SO WHY NOT WAIT UNTIL THEN?
It is the power, life, claim, assurance, comfort, peace, grace, love that we live without if we wait.
God wants for each of us to be part of the family, why would someone want to just be a guest when they could be kin?
Salvation is a process. (Baptism is the start)
We are claimed and saved so that we can grow in relationship with God and God’s people.
This is why we are a church.
To claim the outsider, the orphan, the widow, the forgotten, the rejected, the proud, the hard-hearted, that together we grow together toward God.
When there are those outside the family, how can we celebrate in the house?
(The unwritten part of the Prodigal Sons story: The father can’t be in the party when there are those on the outside looking in with anger, jealousy, fear, division, confusion, hate, etc.)
Baptism is our entrance into the party of salvation.
Come on in, the Party is on!
Notes from UMC.org and GBOD.org
Audience: Trust in themselves and those who regard others with contempt
Parable: Pharisee vs Tax Collector
As people with a strong work ethic it is hard to get to the heard of this passage.
• We celebrate those who pull themselves up by their own boot straps
• We value those folks who follow the rules and don’t buck the system.
• We encourage good behavior and clean living.
• We reward perfect attendance.
We hear about this fellow who tithes and fasts and we want to give him a medal.
Who find’s God’s love and power in the story?
The one who already knows or who dares to come in.
We know folks who say things like:
• I’ve already got that Jesus thing covered.
• I’ve already been baptized, confirmation. I go to church all the time.
• I love God and Jesus, but not the church.
Faith is important but my work, family, money, time are more important at the moment.
Which gets us to the heart of God?
Spiritual trust or Mental decision or Good Behavior?
Is it something I do or something God is doing through the Spirit in me?
I believe this is where most Church folks get tripped up.
We are taught give our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness as member vows.
These are good and important things.
But these do not make us Christian or Methodist or even faithful on their own.
The are our RESPONSE to Christ first being in our lives, not what we do to earn our way in.
A second part of this passage is who DESERVES to be with God?
Those who do acts-of-piety or those who stumble in from the place of sin?
Fast 2x week, tithe with pride vs One who steals from the poor.
Look what I can do vs. Don’t look at what I have done
Q: Why does the tax collector come to the temple to pray in the first place, if they feel so unworthy?
A: The difference between the two who came to prayer is that one come only out of pride or habit, the other comes to worship.
For all that effort on the part of the dutiful leader, the had come for themselves.
The tax collector had come looking for God.
A Third part is the passage is the value of self and others.
God I thank you that I am not like other people.
You can feel better know there is someone out there worse off than you.
At least I’m not as bad off as (fill in the blank)
• Q: Who does God celebrate most, One lost or 99 who know better?
• A: The shepherd finding the One rejoices and celebrates with friends.
Finally is the core teaching of this text:
Reward comes to the humble.
The proud already have the reward they will receive.
One could read this passage and say:
• “it doesn’t matter if I do good.”
• “I don’t have to fast, tithe or come regularly to church.”
• “I want to take the publican – the tax collector plan and come when I need to come.”
JUSTIFICATION: Good Methodist Word – Christ’s work saving Us.
But here is the heart of the text… once we experience humility we find the door to God’s heart. All the faithful practices of the church and faith and traditions become our response to finding God.
• Tithing is not something we are born doing.
• Fasting goes against our physical programming.
• The church is called to be Christ’s body on earth made up of sinful folks like us.
SO WHAT: Mulligan time, come as you are. Practice Lord have mercy on me a sinner. Lawd, Hav’ Me Cry.. Lawd, Have Me become 2nd & you 1st.
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt:
10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’
13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’
14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
–NRSV Luke 18:9-14