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Servanthood

Lectionary reflections for The Baptism of Our Lord (A)

By Timothy Nakayama

 

Readings for Epiphany 1, Year A, Jan. 9, 2005 (The Baptism of Our Lord)

Isaiah 42:1-9
Psalm 29
Acts 10:34-43
Matthew 3:13-17

 

“Hanging on for dear life!” This statement can often describe our spiritual state, our human condition, or even our style of life – what we think we should be doing, what we have become weary of doing, or what in actuality we have given up, and are not doing at all!

A child, going down the street, was hanging on to a parent. The child was getting very tired of holding on and was beginning to complain. The parent, sensing the child's uneasiness said, “Loosen your grip! Don't worry. Relax. I will hold your hand! I will take hold of you!”

Jesus was baptized by John, but Jesus didn't need baptism for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus needed baptism by John to affirm his ministry of servanthood. We need both: baptism for the forgiveness of our sins, and baptism for our servanthood ministry.

Jesus was baptized by John, but Jesus didn't need baptism for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus needed baptism by John to affirm his ministry of servanthood. We need both: baptism for the forgiveness of our sins, and baptism for our servanthood ministry.

Jesus was declared the Son of God when he was baptized. When you make the sign of the cross, may it be a declaration that you have been baptized, and that God is holding on to you. You don't have to hold on for dear life! You and I are fellow-heirs with Christ, beloved children of God, even as Jesus heard the declaration at his own baptism in the River Jordan: “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well-pleased!” May you be held in the hollow of God's hand!

Jesus came among us to serve. To follow the admonition to be imitators of Christ we have in this Epiphany-tide a specific opportunity to exercise our servanthood ministry in response to the great tsunami disaster across South Asia.

If we know someone immediately affected in any of the areas, our response to this tragedy may be more personal and urgent. But if we have less specific connections, our compassion and response can be no less compelling as we are challenged to recognize our part in the global community. Our sense of servanthood can move us to identify with and act, joining with others to alleviate human suffering.

The Isaiah 42:1-9 passage has trilogies of statements of ‘my', ‘He', ‘who', and ‘I', ending with “I am the LORD . . . my glory I give to no other,” and “See” (be illumined!).

Psalm 29 similarly has a series of trilogies: “Ascribe to the LORD,” “The voice of the LORD” (two series of three), Then there are the doublets of “The LORD sits enthroned,” and “The LORD  shall give. . .”

Acts 10:43 reiterates the prophetic utterance: “everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Matthew 3 ultimately makes the point, “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 my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” On this First Sunday of the Epiphany: God's glorious light shines yet again!

 

The Rev. Timothy Makoto Nakayama has served diverse racial/ethnic communities in three countries. He was born, raised, and ordained in Canada, then emigrated to Seattle, Wash., and later was a missionary in Okinawa. Tim's ministry of over 40 years of social change includes regional community organizing, assisting in the formation of the national Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry, and welcoming refugees from around the world. He now lives in Seattle, and may be reached by email at frtim@yahoo.com .