The Baptism of the Lord "Something in the Water" ~ Susan McGurgan


Before the first leper was ever healed

or a single parable was told,

he was loved.

Before any sinner was embraced;

before the crowds began to gather;

before palm branches were cut;

before the sacrifice of the cross;

he was accepted.


Before Jesus began his mission;

before he called even one disciple;

God tore open the heavens,

sent down the Holy Spirit, and cried,

“You are my beloved child,

with whom I am well pleased.”


God’s love was present

at the beginning of the journey,

long before the ending was revealed.

God’s approval

came from the start--

before Jesus calmed the storm

or set one captive free.


Jesus was beloved,

even before the water became wine

and before that wine was offered up for us.


God’s love surrounded Jesus,

not because Jesus did something,

or said something,

or proved something,

but because he was something.


For most of us,

this kind of love is hard to understand

and even harder to accept.


The kind of love

poured out for Jesus at his baptism—

is it really meant for us?

Surely we must do something noteworthy,

first.


Somehow, in our brokenness,

we’ve come to believe

that God’s love must be earned--

that God’s blessings,

like end-of-the-year bonuses,

are carefully calculated and rationed.


Like bruised reeds,

we only feel lovable

after we’ve walked on some water

or fed a lot of hungry people.

Smoldering wicks,

we only feel accepted

after we attract an adoring crowd

or successfully complete a mission.

The kind of love poured out for Jesus—

if it comes to us at all—

should come only as a benediction,

not a beginning.


When Jesus plunged

into the waters of the Jordan,

he had nothing to repent.

There were no sins to wash away,

no emptiness to be filled,

no brokenness to be made whole.


But he came to the water, anyway.


When Jesus plunged

into the waters of the Jordan,

he was not thirsting in the desert

or yearning to be healed.


But he came to the water, anyway.


Jesus waded into the river

to join gamblers and gossips and thieves.

He entered the water to cast his lot

with rich and poor,

saint and sinner,

liberated and lost,

you and me.


Jesus joins us in the water

to teach us that God’s love is our birthright.

God’s blessing is our gift,

right from the start.


He enters the water to tell us

there is no village so remote,

no river so foul,

no place of temptation so frightening

that God is not already there,

waiting,

ready to take us by the hand

and lead us home.

He joins us in the water to give comfort to his people;

to say to us,

“Here!

Here is your God!”


“I have grasped you by the hand.

I formed you

and set you as a covenant of the people,

and a light for the nations,

to free captives from prison,

to open the eyes of the blind.”


Jesus plunges into the water

to open our eyes--

To show us that heaven

has been torn apart for us, too.

That God’s love is present for us

at the beginning of our own journey,

long before the ending is revealed.


Jesus wades into the Jordan

to open our hearts--

to show us that the love we are given

also sends us out —

out into the desert,

out into the crowds,

and then back into the river

with gamblers

and gossips

and thieves.


We are sent out—

not to earn God’s love and approval,

or even to bring Christ to the world,

but to proclaim “Emmanuel! Christ is with us!”


To say, “Shake the water from your eyes!

God is with us,

not because we did something,

or said something,

or proved something,


but because we are something!”


© Susan Fleming McGurgan

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