"There in the comma between the shouts 'Christ is Risen', and the responding alleluia whispered, 'Christ is Risen indeed', dwells a lifetime", begins our Easter meditation from a year ago (footer Easter 2011) and I'm remembering it because it appears we have been living in the comma for awhile, at least since Advent. In Advent we realized our baptism made a significant difference in how we viewed our world, and as Epiphany rolled around the 'surprise' of our new way of seeing, was to rediscover each day we are invited to walk into the sacred holiness of this world. Okay, we say, we can do that, and as we're beginning to loosen up, and shake out the arrhythmia, then here it comes......again! Straight out of the lenten chute the Common Lectionary directs us to John baptising Jesus. How many times do I have to address this, I grumble to myself, what more can I experience in waiting, and waiting some more. What part of 'wait' do I not get? When do I really get to lay down some tracks and move into the call of my baptism, I wonder.
Well, not so surprisingly this time around we are invited to witness some of Jesus' reactions as he heads off into the desert to discern his experience with the Holy Spirit. We know Jesus came to be an interpreter of God, but few of us may not really understand that Jesus also came to interpret us, to us. He not only came to help us affirm and re-affirm how we are the beloved of God, but also to show us how to be the beloved in God and fully human at the same time. He came to show us what being human means. So if we may take human liberties here, we can imagine he's as flummoxed as we might be by the sound of the word 'Beloved' intoned by the Holy Spirit, and manifested in a white dove and maybe he's even freaked out that for the first time he's experienced a CALL. And, confused by the nature of the call, was he then compelled to run? Perhaps he was thinking 'what the heck'? Who? Me? What??? Not THE beloved. Not the BELOVED. Perhaps he was embarrassed and shy when John called him out of the crowd. Perhaps he had gone that day to the water to witness his cousin's charisma in gathering crowds in order to baptize, and suddenly he heard his name. What? the Messiah? Perhaps he looked around when he saw John looking at him to see if maybe John's gaze was resting on the one standing behind him? Yet through his acquiescence the sky opened, thunder exploded, the dove came down, a voice was heard, and it happened all at once. One thing is sure. We can see that as Jesus steps out of his embarrassment, his anonymity in the crowd, and into the water, the mystery unfolds, and causes a shift in his stance, in his life-direction. He hightails it into the desert we're told, to figure it all out, perhaps to wrap his mind and heart around the phenomena of doves and voices, and being the beloved.
Since September I will have been in the desert three different periods of time. During those periods I quietly stepped out of my life to explore the land in order to make plans to bring others with me at another time, yet I had my very own epiphanies with newness of life, re-creation, and solace. Independent from me the days poured out their abundant blessings as the cumulus over the distant high Sierra announced 'Beloved', as the rainbow over Death Valley cried 'Beloved', and as jack rabbit scurried for the safety of a creosote bush: 'Beloved'. And as I was both reassured, touched, and blessed my whispered response came not in alleluias, but in the form of questions. Was my response to my call dependent upon my intimate understanding that I am the beloved? In other words, does being Beloved of God make a difference in how I walk in loving, intimate relationships with my family, my community, and myself? Do I exude 'belovedness' with my presence, like fragrance? Is more life abundant when I am present? Is beloveness visible like light, or heard like sound? Can it be 'caught' by another? I find myself wondering if my questions weren't Jesus' questions, and if so, did he also wonder how he would manifest his call in the presence of his community and world?
Perhaps that is why the Common Lectionary, like dripping water, continues to invite us to discern and understand what it means to be sealed as the beloved, forever? Maybe it takes lots of visits to the desert, either the desert of our souls or the desert of our bodies to ferret out from our cultural and personal wildernesses how our 'belovedness' actually translates into our lives. This Lenten season may be another opportunity to come close in order to receive affirmation and love, and be willing to be transformed even as Jesus might have been, from resistance, fear, and denial of our call and our belovedness.
Augustine of Hippo gives us encouragement, "Solviture Ambulando" he writes, "it can be solved by walking." As we walk, I pray it become our hope that our deep longings be filled with knowledge of being sealed in Christ and called and longed for by the God of the universe, who is the One whose very presence speaks 'Beloved'.
Our Lenten instructions look very similar to Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. Are we disappointed? How can we really be? With Jesus as mentor and the Christ as our companion we can walk more willingly and confidently into the comma and onward to the more than whispered Alleluias of Easter. By now, we know whose we are. We are the Beloved.