The theme of everything I have read so far this morning is simply the word POWER. The gospel for today speaks of God’s power manifest in the baptism of Jesus in two ways that I can see. God speaking when Jesus emerges from the water is impressive: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him!” I am struck by both the soft expression of paternal pride and the booming imperative of what follows that sounds like it carries great consequence. (This is, of course, only my personal take on that moment.) Prior to God’s role at the event, however, Jesus shows a different side of power: the humility that is the necessary companion to any recognition or manifestation of personal power. John doesn’t feel worthy of baptizing Jesus, but Jesus knows the necessity of affirming John’s call and ministry as well acting out his own place in the human family.
Sometimes it’s tricky to navigate the heady waters of positions of power when the ego rushes to the fore and tries to grab all the adulation. (Jesus is a good model here.) The best leaders are those who are conscious of potential missteps in relationship – whether in a family or the world community – and who remember that they are just like the rest of us in the eyes of God.
Once again it is the daily psalm (29) that captures for me the depth of these thoughts in speaking of the power of God. The juxtaposition of manifest supremacy and caring love for all of creation is extraordinary and culminates in a message that can only evoke gratitude in those who comprehend its totality. Here are some excerpts from Ancient Songs Sung Anew:
O all you many powers of heaven and earth, know this, that it is God who fills them full, a God of strength and beauty…It is the voice of God that rides in beauty upon the waters. It is a voice of power that peals like thunder across the world. God’s voice is strength itself, majestic in its scope and range. So strong it snaps in two and splinters mighty cedar trees, so soft and delicate it sets the newborn lambs to dancing or sends the brash young bulls to skip and play…And yet above the brimming energies of earth and sky, the fullness of the oceans and the forest deep, our God as sovereign sits in perfect rest, and gives the people strength to love, bestowing blessing over all, and covers us with everlasting peace.