Pastoral Relief and Retreat

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Wethersfield, CT, United States
I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.

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Monday, January 5, 2009

January 6, 2009: The Baptism and Temptation of Jesus

READ: Matthew 3:13-4:11

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me? 15 But Jesus answered him, Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. 1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread. 4 But he answered, It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, and “On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. 7 Jesus said to him, Again it is written, You shall not put the Lord your God to the test. 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me. 10 Then Jesus said to him, Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve. 11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

What strange creatures we are!  God comes to us and offers us real intimacy with him and we wave him off claiming it wouldn't be "appropriate".   Think of it!  Jesus comes to John and asks him to baptize him.  How is that intimate, you ask?  Have you ever washed another human being who wasn't an infant or a lover?  Those of us who have been care-givers to the elderly know what this is like.  It is both intimate and embarrassing.  I suspect John was feeling some of these same things when Jesus -- his cousin -- someone he had most likely grown up knocking about with -- came to him asking to be baptized.  It was intimate because this was John's cousin.  

It is a lot easier to baptize someone who is a stranger than when it is your own flesh and blood.  As a pastor, I have served communion to hundreds of people at one time.  They shuffle up to the altar and I feel nothing as I mechanically serve them the bread and wine.  But when I serve the Eucharist to the Elders at Nottingham; when I am fortunate enough to serve it to Tim and Beth (my own kids) or Jama; when I hold the cup to the lips of someone I know and love all the feelings and complexities of that relationship come into play and I am no longer a pastor fulfilling a rite of the church.  I am suddenly a shepherd, a discipler, a father, a husband.  And there are times I can barely choke out the words, "The body of Christ, broken for you."  It is at those times I really know what John was going through when he said, "I need to be baptized by you."  "Don't come to me and ask me to do this!  It is too powerful of a moment and I am so unworthy of your love."

Ah, but that's when the tempter comes with his lies.  Notice that twice Satan says to Jesus, "IF you are the Son of God..."  He is trying to wear away at Jesus' self-knowledge.  He is trying to bring into question whether Jesus really IS who he believes himself to be.  And when that doesn't work he tempts Jesus to worship someone other than who he knows his Father to be.  When we have those intimate, powerful, human-and-yet-divine moments where we know that God is calling us to bring together our humanity, his divinity, and the humanity of another in that unique triangular relationship that only God can cause, do not wonder that there is a voice close at your ear saying, "Don't do it!"  It will be a voice telling you that you are not good enough, or the moment isn't right, or you don't have the authority to say or do what you know in your heart God is calling you to do.  At such a moment there is only one thing you need to say, even before you continue the Eucharistic moment: "Be gone, Satan!  For it is written, you shall love the Lord your God and him only shall you serve!"  

Jon

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