What is the "authority" that resonates most powerfully in your life? Jesus responds to a violent attack with this simple question about what we respect, and thus serve, and thus welcome.
And it is set in the mysterious context of Baptism-- a religious cleansing ritual that this wild figure from the desert, John the Baptist, transformed into a ritual of Rescue and turning toward God's power.
We are constantly under pressure to be "clean" and "right" but how are you receiving a Baptism of Rescue, so that you can continue welcoming the power of God?
Teach your body the vocabulary of prayer through the ancient practice of repeating sacred phrases with the rhythm of your breathing and actions.
This is modeled over and over throughout the Psalms (the Prayerbook of the Bible).
"Hear the Story"
read with some commentary and a little explanation.
Why reference Baptism?
Who does "authority" serve?
Hear Jesus, in the face of violence, continue to teach us the "posture" of receiving
the mystery of "Baptism"
the posture for "Rescue"
The Gospel of Mark begins with a story about a strange character who came out of the wilderness to "Baptize" people. This was a religious ritual of cleansing that this prophetic figure transformed into an experience of receiving God's rescuing presence. John the Baptist held people under the water for repentance (turning toward God) and pulled them up to receive the arrival of God among them.
Instead of improving ourselves with a religious cleansing, we are turning ourselves toward the rescue of a spiritual arrival.
Jesus talks about this Baptism when he is attacked by the religious and political power structures. He asks, "where does this authority come from?" Jesus traps the power elite in their own game of gotcha, but more than that he calls us to examen our own experience of "authority."
Are we seeking a cleansing, that will make us presentable to those we see as having power?
Or are we accepting rescue, that comes directly from God's presence among us?
Christians understand Baptism as a drowning rescue ritual. Paul describes it in Romans 6 and acting out death, and being pulled up into new life. The ancient prayers of the Psalms over and over again describe the waters that wash over our head and drown us, and the hand of God that grabs hold of us and pulls us up.
We miss the rescue, though, when we are focused on our own self-improvement--our own cleansing. Jesus tells this damning parable to the religious elite, showing that they are just seeking to increase their own wealth and inheritance rather than receive the transforming presence of God. They are pursing the authority of humanity rather than the miracle of God with us, holding us and leading us.
Remember your Baptism daily like this:
(and if you would like be baptized, talk to the pastors:)
The Waters surround you, but you are pulled up into air, life, and God's family.
Your stressors and anxieties surround you and drown you, but you are pulled up into air, life, and God's family.
Your trauma and wounds suffocate you and hold you down, but you are pulled up into air, life, and God's family.
Your doubts, addictions, and fears blind you and overwhelm you, but you are pulled up into air, life, and God's family.
God's hand reaches into the waters and takes hold of you.
And in response we cling to God.
My soul clings to You; Your hand takes hold of me