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Déjà Vu?

February 20, 2015

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When I read the Gospel lesson for the First Sunday of Lent, I had a weird sense of déjà vu! Hadn’t I just preached on Jesus’ baptism in January? And wasn’t it the account Mark shared which is our reading for this Sunday? I wasn’t losing my mind, it was the same lesson being read again. On the Baptism of the Lord Sunday (January 11, 2015), we did read Mark’s “Cliff Notes” version of the baptism. And on Sunday we will read the short version of the temptation in the wilderness and John the Baptist’s arrest along with the Lord’s baptism. So what is a preacher to do when the same passage comes up again so quickly? Well, as always, that is where the Holy Spirit comes in!

On the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord which we observed in January, Jesus was beginning a new phase of his life and ministry. And he heard the voice of God commending him and encouraging him. Now in the liturgical calendar, he is nearing the end of that ministry. Perhaps we need to read the same passage from a different perspective

I have to wonder myself as Jesus began the road to Jerusalem that last time, if he pondered all that had happened since his Baptism and entry into public ministry. I keep hearing the refrain from the Webber-Rice song, “Gethsemane” in “Jesus Christ Superstar”. In the song, Jesus reflects on his ministry and, almost with a sense of despair, he sings… “Listen, surely I’ve exceeded expectations. Tried for three years, seems like thirty. Could you ask as much from any other man.”

And so here we are… In the liturgical year, we are mere weeks away from Holy Week and the Passion of our Lord. Perhaps that is a good time to remember Jesus’ baptism. For Jesus, even though his earthly life is winding down and unimaginable suffering will soon be upon him, this is a good time to remember the promise of his baptism. “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) Despite all of his frustrations with the religious authorities and their inability to “get it”, and even the “well duh” moments with his disciples, he remembers… This isn’t about me! I am doing exactly what God has called me to do! I came through the wilderness once and I will again, with God’s help.

I find comfort in the realization that despite his sufferings, Jesus could look back to his baptism and remember God’s claim upon him. So perhaps we do need a sense of déjà vu from time to time. As we walk towards the Cross, may we remember the promise and the hope of our own baptism, just as Jesus must have himself. You are, dear reader, God’s beloved, chosen and called by God even before you could comprehend what that meant. In our baptism we are reminded of our calling to be God’s instruments of peace, hope, and love in this world.

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