Cooperation with and in God

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

Psalm 55 (Morning)
Psalm 138, 139:1-17(18-23) (Evening)
1 Kings 18:41-19:8
Phil. 3:17-4:7
Matt. 3:13-17

Cooperation with and in God

In today’s gospel John baptizes Jesus. Baptism is one of two central sacraments in our church (the other is the Eucharist) and at the heart of sacramental ministry is the mystery of our relationship with God. The gospel today directs our attention to that mystery by narrating an account that has Jesus ask John to baptize him. Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God, the first born of all creation, calls upon John to anoint him with the waters of the Spirit. John’s first reaction mirrors the most natural response: No, it is you who should baptize me. Like Peter’s initial refusal to have Jesus wash his feet, John hesitates to participate in the ministry Jesus calls him to. And yet that is what they both must do. Jesus calls us into cooperative ministry with him.

What is our relationship with God? The sacraments point us to a relationship that is mysteriously intertwined. In the Gospel of John, Jesus sees the relationship as so closely braided together that he speaks of himself as the vine and us as the branches (John 15). The anonymously written, medieval book, The Cloud of Unknowing, takes that image and concludes that “God is [our] being, and what [we] are, [we] are in God.” At Communion we take Christ’s true presence within us and then we are sent into the world, not merely as representatives of Christ but as the body of Christ. And for St. Paul it is through the power and mystery of baptism that we have “clothed [ourselves] with Christ” and thus significantly ended the ethnic, social, and gender distinctions that separate us: “As many of you as were baptized into Christ … there is [therefore] no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:27-28).

We are reminded today that we are honored and burdened to be called into ministry and unity with God. Honored because in God there is absolute love. Burdened because life in God means there is work to do. Thus St. Francis prays:

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer, p. 833


Written by Joshua Daniel, Ph.D.

Joshua is serving as St. Paul’s seminarian at Virginia Theological Seminary, where he just began (God willing) his final year of graduate school. Before moving to seminary with his family he worked as the chaplain at St. Martin’s University Center and in the Philosophy Department at the University of Arkansas, where he received his Ph.D. In Virginia, his wife, Jenna, has worked part time running her essential oil business, and full time meeting and anticipating the spiritual, physical, and emotional needs and well being of the many creatures living with her: Ruby (now aged 3), Jude (now aged 7 and in the 2nd grade), and her often occupied–and in much need of love and grace–husband.

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