It was a moment in time to be remembered. Those present were so impressed by what they had seen and heard that day, they would tell others who had not been there. The story spread, until finally after being passed on orally, it would become part of a written account. People would remember that day by the river Jordan. Many came to be baptized by John, but on this day a man would ask to be baptized. This man was somehow different. John seemed reluctant to baptize him, but the man insisted. Following the baptism, everyone agreed, something happened. A dove came from nowhere, and a voice suddenly sounded, speaking to the man who had been baptized. Even more remarkable, the man retreated quickly, as if led away from there into the wilderness. Before anyone had a chance to react to what they had seen, before they could ask who the man was, or where he was going, he had disappeared.
Jesus would not remain to field questions from the crowd. He would not even give them time to follow him. This was something he had to do alone, and there was no time to waste; no time to enjoy the moment. There was something unsettling about the whole scene.
Don't get too comfortable; we aren't there yet. It seems to be the message of the gospel. Yes, this is God's beloved son, but that does not mean the mission can be delayed. The work was not completed in the river, it was only begun. It would only see its completion in his death upon the cross. Jesus couldn't become comfortable with being baptized; there was a long road ahead; for him and for us.
When Jesus subjected himself to baptism he identified with us, specifically with our sins and our need to repent and turn around. Admit you are dirty and allow yourself to be washed so that you might start out on a new road.
His identity with us would take him into the lives of people, all people. He would touch the most vulnerable, heal those with hurt so great there was no hope for wholeness. Finally, it would take him to the cross, where he would die for our sins, for our inability to live into who we were created to be.
When Jesus was baptized in the river, we went with him. When Jesus was driven into the wildness, we were driven with him. When Jesus died upon the cross, we died with him. He identified with us so that we might identify with him. His life becomes our life. His mission becomes our mission. As he could not stay beside the river enjoying the moment of baptism, we cannot stay where we are. Don't get too comfortable, because we are not there yet!
But what is wrong with where we are? Is there anything wrong with living comfortably? Having a nice home, a good job, a rhythm to life that provides a person with a sense of security and stability? Is there anything wrong with that? Is there anything wrong with being comfortable at church, being comfortable with the liturgy and the people around you? Is there anything wrong with being comfortable with where we are?
The road Jesus travelled would bring him to his Father in heaven, it would identify his will with his Father's will. He could have been comfortable where he was amongst the people; but he chose instead to follow the path that would lead to life, a life even beyond death.
The problem with being comfortable in our world is that it might very well keep us from following the path that allows us to identify with Jesus, and discover new life for ourselves. There is a path that we are invited to take with Jesus that requires us to become pilgrims, to leave that which is comfortable in this world and seek something else. It may not mean moving physically from our homes, quitting our jobs or finding new churches; but it may mean recognizing something of value beyond those things. It may mean no longer being content with them as such, and searching for life beyond them.
The Lenten season is uncomfortable. Asked to take on, give up, to discipline ourselves. Our lives are changed, our routines disrupted by the demands of the season. As if to say, don't get too comfortable where you are, because we have a ways to go on this journey. Have you ever wondered why you are asked to take on special disciplines in Lent? Have you ever wondered why you are asked to change how you live your life for these forty days? Because we are called to be pilgrims, not settlers. We are called to see this life, this time, this place as something we are passing through to the home God has prepared for us. We are not called to stake a claim and call this home. The disciplines of Lent remind us how easily we become attached to this time, this life, this place, and how in that attachement we lose sight of the home waiting for us. The disciplines of Lent remind us how easily we lose the vision of the future for the security of the present.
Where are we on our journey? Are we comfortable? If we are, chances are we need to remind ourselves that we are pilgrims and not settlers. Chances are this Lenten season will be difficult if we take it seriously. Chances are we will need to discover the grace of the Spirit to help us keep those disciplines, and also the need to ask forgiveness for becoming too comfortable in our lives.
In the reading from Genesis today, Noah is told that the rainbow will be a sign. The flood is over, and never again will God bring forth the rains to destroy the whole creation. The rainbow is to be seen as a sign of the covenant, the relationship between God and creation. He will stand with creation, despite how far it might be separated from him. He will work to restore creation to him, and will love his creation no matter what.
The rainbow is our sign of what God's love means for us. Regardless of what we have done, we are God's creation. Regardless of where we have gone, we can see the rainbow in the sky and know that God's love is calling us home. Regardless of who we think we are, or what we have become, God recognizes us as his children and loves us.
The rainbow represents a promise God made to the people of Israel, and to each succeeding generation. His love surrounds us, and leads us so that we might be one with him and with all creation. But in seeing the rainbow, we must also remember that the rainbow was born out of our sin, and God's desire to restore creation to him. Let the rainbow be our reminder to respond to God's invitation, be pilgrims journeying toward life. Let it constantly remind us not to get too comfortable, because we aren't there yet. Amen.