- Bo Crowe (from Divine Ambiguity)
Here is my servant! I have made him strong. He is my chosen one; I am pleased with him. I have given him my Spirit, and he will bring justice to the nations. He won’t shout or yell or call out in the streets. He won’t break off a bent reed or put out a dying flame, but he will make sure that justice is done. He won’t quit or give up until he brings justice everywhere on earth, and people in foreign nations long for his teaching. I am the Lord God. I created the heavens like an open tent above. I made the earth and everything that grows on it. I am the source of life for all who live on this earth, so listen to what I say. I chose you to bring justice, and I am here at your side. I selected and sent you to bring light and my promise of hope to the nations. You will give sight to the blind; you will set prisoners free from dark dungeons. My name is the Lord! I won’t let idols or humans share my glory and praise. Everything has happened just as I said it would; now I will announce what will happen next.
- Isaiah 42.1-9 (CEV)
Jesus left Galilee and went to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. But John kept objecting and said, “I ought to be baptized by you. Why have you come to me?” Jesus answered, “For now this is how it should be, because we must do all that God wants us to do.” Then John agreed. So Jesus was baptized. And as soon as he came out of the water, the sky opened, and he saw the Spirit of God coming down on him like a dove. Then a voice from heaven said, “This is my own dear Son, and I am pleased with him.”
- Matthew 3.13-17 (CEV)
When we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus, as we will this Sunday, we often take the opportunity to renew the vows we made at our personal baptisms. This can be confusing for Disciples (members of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ), who don’t make ritual vows at baptism. That sounds too much like creedalism, something best left to high liturgical traditions. But we do, in point of fact, make a commitment of faith in the form of what we call the Good Confession:
“We confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and proclaim him Lord and Savior of the world, requiring nothing more — and nothing less — as a basis of our life together.”
This confession of faith is based on Peter’s confession at Matthew 16.16, and while it seems simple at first blush, a closer reading reveals that it has profound implications for how we understand and live our faith. For example, to confess that Jesus is the Christ is to affirm that everything we understand about God and faith is seen through the lens of Jesus. So should someone suggest that God is warlike, wrathful, and vengeful, we would respond by pointing to the boundless compassion of Jesus healing, sharing, and providing for the needs of all and sundry and say… this is what God is like.
Again, should someone suggest that faith is defined by our beliefs about God as found in doctrine, dogma, creed, or even a face value (read literal) reading of scripture, we would respond by saying that our faith consists in following Jesus; that is to say, living in his presence daily, motivated by his example, and empowered by his spirit to walk as he walked. Faith, for us, is not about affirming a statement of Jesus as the Christ, but about allowing his reality to inundate our lives and inspire the way we live day by day. This is big – a game changer, a paradigm shift of tectonic proportions – because it is based on the understanding that God works not only on our behalf through the uniquely chosen servant – Jesus the Christ – but as well through us as we stand for compassion, justice, and equality for all. Such faith is not quietist and retiring, but rather bold, selfless, and determined.
I could go on listing profound implications of the Good Confession for our faith, but this is enough to get the juices flowing, and motivate you to look closely at this confession, and reflect on additional implications for our faith. On Sunday we will reflect together on how our lives, the nature of the church as community, and our relationship to others would change if we decided to live into this confession. This could be the start of something big…