There he was, on hands and knees, gathering the trash after the Capitol breach. One representative, working methodically and quietly, resanctifying the space he felt to be so sacred. It is, after all, the people’s house. And now, it had been desecrated by the chaotic crowd. One person who put aside the rhetoric, the outrage and the grief. One man doing what needed to be done at the moment. And so in sheer simplicity, he demonstrated what it is to be humble and to do the right thing. In a thousand ways, he was showing what it is to be called to a moment, to a purpose, to a role.
And so it is somewhat ironic and yet terribly appropriate that this Sunday, the Baptism of Jesus is celebrated. This is a launching, a new beginning. And it is John the Baptist who describes himself as “unworthy” in Mark 1:7-11. He understands the “greater than” as well as his own mission. He chooses commitment, purpose. Conscious of who he was, and with a deep appreciation for other, John lives out his birthright. In our world where social media produces influencers without discrimination, such humility is a rare privilege. John the Baptist models a gift that inspires service, the ability to give without credit or recognition, to believe that a sense of purpose makes a difference for self and, more importantly, for others. Humility is born of that sense of knowing self and knowing something greater than self exists.
Acts 10:34-38 explores other dimensions of this. Phrases stand out in support: God is impartial to all, welcoming to all. There is no rigidity, no exclusion, no exception. That openness is there for all. John the Baptist embraced this, and his doing so indicates that opportunity is there for all. And then there is that final fragment: “He went about doing good
and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him”. This confides God’s presence with Jesus. Transcending millenia, the words echo the holiday season’s “Emmanuel”, “God with us”. In this very time, in the midst of our unworthiness, God is with us. The passage illustrates Jesus doing good. Good in his own way, just as each of us is called to do.
The Baptism of the Lord is a chance for each of us to re-launch. It is about realizing who we really are, that we, too, are unworthy and yet beloved. We, too, have the presence of God with us. We have the chance to live out role and mission with a clear purpose for the greater good. We, too, can resanctify the space that we are living in. We can choose what appears to be the least of all tasks. And we can be aware that humble service builds for the greater good, brings the touch of God to the messiness of human life and enables us to become more than what we were before. Baptism marks this new beginning; even unworthy as we are, the chance is there.