Recalling your allegiance
As we enter this short brief season of Epiphany, meaning “revelation” in the original language, we are called to consider the story about Jesus being baptized, our own baptism either as adults or children, and the promises we made or were made in our behalf.
For baptism’s bottom line is this – a deliberate act of allegiance. St Paul, writing to the church in Rome asserts that “It is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” In other words, we are called to put our mouth where our heart is. And is it not true that actions speak louder than thousands of words?
So, like we used to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in school and we continue doing in special occasions, today we are called to reflect in our baptism, our own very ACT of Allegiance to Jesus Christ, where you pledge yourself to Jesus and you committed yourself to follow, trust, love, and obey. (If you have a Book of Common Prayer handy, you may turn to page 300 and following to read the whole service).
In St Matthew’s gospel we are told than when our Lord was questioned about his motivation for being baptized – Of all people, He who would baptized us with His Spirit, argues John! – Jesus said that because it was the right thing to do.
So even before being baptized, Jesus displayed his true allegiance to God, his Father and to God’s purposes for Him and for all creation. And such affirmation both to His Father and by God’s own affirmation, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased,” were the cornerstone to Christ’s life and ministry, come what may.
One of the traditions of each new year is “to make my resolution.” I do not have any statistics or reliable research to quote but my humble observation is that such resolutions are not long-lived – unless we resolutely stay on top of them. But even then, the pounds or whatever else we swore to shed from our lives slowly but surely creep back in.
So, at the beginning of this new year and in recalling your Baptism as your own Act of Allegiance to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, may I ask, what have you allowed to creep back into your spiritual life?
I know; like “New Year Resolutions,” changing routines and habits is never an easy task without a supportive environment and, for sure, good-spirited cheerleading and gentle prodding.
Jesus himself, even as a man of prayer and spirit as He was, surrounded himself by friends and throughout His ministry he recalled his intimate relationship with His Father as a pillar of hope and faith.
But here is the good news. When Jesus in Gethsemane almost reached a breaking point, celestial angels came to minister him and to supply him with the strength needed to face the dark hours ahead.
In the same way, He who baptized you “with the water of the word of God” is more than ready to renew hope in you, to strengthen you with grace and mercy, and to fill you with a renewed sense of God’s love. For He who called you into being is the One that has called you “good,” and will see you through the storms and challenges of life.
You are God’s beloved child. St. John affirms that God loved you before you had any chance or even intention of loving him – “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! And this is what we are!” This is who YOU are NOW! Let this be your “epiphany” for this, the Season of Epiphany.
Jesus, by pushing his way into Jordan’s waters took his place among us and beside us. Then, now, and until the end of times.
I am sure that at some turns of life you may have found yourself being let down or lied to. Some may have not supported you in your direst moment and others, even with their best intentions, failed to understand your plight or heard your cry. But know this – “Since there was no one greater to swear by, God took an oath in his own name, saying. ‘I will fail you and never forsake you.’”
Then, whenever you feel overwhelmed or whenever the tide surges strong against you, remember – God himself pledged his allegiance to you!
So, cheer up! Chin up! Rise up and follow!