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Message Supplement for Sunday 12 January 2020: “Watery Awakening”

Today’s focus is Jesus’ public ministry as described in Matthew 3:13-17. It all began with Jesus’ spiritual awakening through baptism by John the Baptist, who was reluctant to perform the task because John perceived himself as insignificant compared with Jesus.

Jesus came up from the baptismal water of the Jordan River and saw the heavens opened. Jesus was inspired to see the heavens open and to receive the Spirit for a transformative ministry. It’s neat how a person’s perception of reality expands following a spiritual awakening. Jesus also saw the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descending upon himself. This vision of a bird is often interpreted to represent the Holy Spirit and peace. Clearly Jesus’ baptism was the most dramatic baptism John had performed.

Consider how, during Jesus’ baptism, the voice of God the Father erupted: “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). In all four gospel stories (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), there are few situations when God the Father speaks. Perhaps the Father’s relative silence has concerns how Jesus was supposed to do most of the talking. After all, the old ways were passing and the new voice was Jesus.

Because Jesus was the center of a new movement, the Old Testament God was less relevant and even contrary to Jesus’ message. In other words, the Old Testament view of God was changing to that of Jesus, whose emphasis on love and redemption seems comparatively enlightened compared with Old Testament norms. This isn’t a criticism of the Old Testament as much as it is an observation of how, ultimately, everything can change for the better.

Jesus “came up from the water . . . and he saw the Spirit of God descending” (Matthew 3: 16). Notice that, as Jesus arose, the Spirit seems to have met him. Jesus did his part, and God responded by the Spirit descending. There’s a lesson here about when you initiate something—such as a baptism or profession of faith —God meets you where you are and helps you complete the journey. You can’t do it all yourself, which is why God blesses you when you step out in faith and begin a good work; God knows that you need help.

God’s Spirit can descend from heaven to empower a process that you are invited to continue. Consider a series of questions intended to get you thinking about your relationship with the Almighty. Have you met God lately? What is it that might be disturbing the waters and interfering with the power of God’s presence? Have you sensitized yourself so that you can experience the Spirit descending upon you? Are your spiritual eyes and ears open to God? Rather than feel interrogated, consider all this an exercise for productive thinking. The New Year is still fresh, and so is the promise and possibility of your faith journey. Get your spiritual mojo activated for a fantastic 2020.

You needn’t wait for a voice from heaven or for a literal dove to land on you. God’s Spirit can work silent wonders at any time, any place. A key to receiving spiritual blessings is being ready, opening yourself to God through intentional awareness. In this way, you can then expect wondrous blessings. As we enter 2020, pray that all of us will search for and find a renewed ministry of love, light and life. It is through spiritual awakening that you will discover health in body, mind & spirit.

–Reverend Larry Hoxey

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