I always love the turn of the calendar into a new year. Something about ending one thing and being given the opportunity to start fresh always makes me feel good. New hope, new possibilities, new chances to begin again... I love it. It feels like a gift.
The gospel reading from this past Sunday centered on the what scholars think of as the formal beginning of the ministry of Jesus--his baptism by John in the Jordan River. When Jesus first approached John to be baptized, John balked: I need to be baptized by you; and you now come to me? And Jesus' response is fascinating: Let it be so now, for it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.
It's an enigmatic statement for sure; but what Jesus is talking about is a "filling up" of the pattern of God's saving work in the world. The God who brings light out of darkness, form out of formlessness, life out of death, Israel out of Egypt and later exile, does so in a definitive new way in the person of Christ. Gregory of Nazianzus remarked that "Jesus rises from the waters, and the world rises with him." A new humanity begins in and with Jesus.
And we, those who have been grafted into his life by the Spirit... WE are that new humanity. So Paul: "If anyone is in Christ--the new creation!" (2 Cor 5:17). To be the Church is to be that people that the Spirit uniquely rests upon to carry on the restorative work of God, begun in Christ, until that day spoken of in the Creed, when "he shall come again in glory to judge both the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end."
This is the essence of what it means to be Bloom, and it, in my opinion, is what makes our community so wildly fun and interesting and life-giving. For we have always been a people who take the Christ who rose from the grave like he rose from the river Jordan more seriously than any other thing. The assumption of his ongoingly powerful presence in our midst has made us and continues to make us what we are--a vibrant expression of the new humanity. The God who raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us. How then shall we live? There is the guiding question of our community.
My encouragement to you at the beginning of this new year, Bloom, is that you would keep running with all your might at what you already are in Christ: the new humanity--a glimpse to the world of how things will one day be, when God is all in all.
It is Epiphany, after all. So go... be the very manifestation of Jesus Christ in all you do and say. The world needs it.
Grace to you,