Invitations (June 2012)

By Matt Dabbs

By Rhesa Higgins

Bright and playful. White and formal. Funny or serious. Poetry or pictures. Invitations come in every style. They can request your presence to celebrate a wedding, a birthday, a graduation, or even a neighborhood block party. It is always fun to be invited, to be included, and to be wanted.

There are times that I wish Jesus had sent me an invitation. I want to have seen with my own eyes, smelled with my own nose, and felt with my own fingers the life that Jesus lived here on earth. The ancient practices of contemplation have become an invitation to me to encounter Jesus, in my imagination. When I find myself wondering how Jesus might have answered a question, it has become my practice to enter into the Story again and walk with Jesus. This method of contemplation resulted in the following reflections I’ll share with you on Jesus’ experience of his own baptism drawn from Matthew 3, Mark 1, and Luke 3.

The road is hot and dusty, lonely. I am walking away from the life I have always known: carpentry, siblings, hard work. My heart aches for family and familiar.

I am going to see my cousin John at the Jordan River; a small taste of family to soothe this loneliness. My Father’s Spirit is in my cousin. I will join him there and wait to see what comes next.

John is speaking about me and my work and I feel his love for my Father, and his love for me. It is good and right that I am here.

I will be baptized as well, responding to John’s preaching. It will show the people where I am starting from: justice, mercy, and humble obedience to my Father’s work.

John’s eyes meet mine. I feel his reluctance but I know this is the right thing to do. My Father’s Spirit confirms it in me.

“I’m the one who needs to be baptized, not you!” John says to me when it is my turn. We’ve both known for a while now that we aren’t just cousins; we are on the same road, called by my Father.

Others turn to watch us. John has not refused to baptize anyone else today.

“John, all of my Father’s work is coming together right here and now. Do this for me.” Our gazes hold and he still looks unsure. John nods slightly and begins to lower me into the water.

The water does feel good. I feel my face go under the cool water. As John lifts me out of the water, a droplet running off my nose, a warm light covers my face. My Father is here! I feel His light. He rests on my shoulder, like a soft hug, and I hear His voice, “This is my Son, marked by my love, and the delight of my life!”

I experience baptism as an invitation; a personalized, hand-written invitation. Baptism is a moment to enter with Jesus into The Story, feeling the light of love and approval from the Father. But I believe that Jesus intended baptism to be more than just a moment.

Baptism is also a covenant to love, honor, and cherish God first, all the remaining days of our lives through the whisper of power that grows in our soul. Baptism is an opportunity to welcome transformation, and even suffering, with purpose and hope, trusting the journey towards home.

Invitations always represent a relationship. Your presence, at a wedding or a party, would make the experience feel whole. The host is asking you to join in and offer yourself as a gift to honor the occasion, and the significant milestone it represents. ‘Come and eat with us, celebrate, mark this moment in time as a blessed one!’ a slip of paper requests.

In John 15, Jesus invites us to remember that life has to be lived in him to be lived at all. Just as plants require water and light and roots to survive, we too need to receive nourishment. Baptism is a key part of this existence and if he were reminding us of this life-giving truth today, it might sound something like, “I am life, your life. I am My Father’s purest life in love and He wants you to have that same life. This life will grow and bloom in you and bring more life. Live with us! Live a whole life in love.”

Now that’s an invitation.

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About...

Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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