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Daily Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, January 9, 2022  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Luke 3:15–17, 21–22

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (NRSV)

Start at the beginning and the whole third chapter of Luke will likely give you whiplash! It starts with the Roman occupier’s org chart, moves to John the Baptist’s lineage, and, within a few verses, records John calling the crowds a “brood of vipers.” It feels disconnected, therefore, that this particular passage begins with “people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts.” Then there’s the whole line about burning chaff with an unquenchable fire. This feels stressful and anxiety producing. It does not lead me to a fullness of expectation or heart meditations.

But perhaps it should. Maybe hopeful expectation and letting our hearts ask the questions is exactly the right response. When things are in turmoil, when insults are flying, and threats are being lobbed about, perhaps that is the time to look for the tangible expression of God’s love. We read that Jesus was baptized in water, the Holy Spirit descended like a dove, and a voice came proclaiming him to be the Son, the Beloved.

In times of anxiety, I follow a practice to use my senses. When anxiety rules my mind, I look for things I can actually see, feel, and hear. In baptismal waters we are reminded of God’s love for and God’s claim on us—just like Jesus experienced. Feel the water. See the dove. Hear the voice. Allow it to calm the anxiety caused by turmoil, stress, and chaos. Find what is real. Let go of what isn’t.

God, when my mind only sees anxiety and stress, point me to the tangible expressions of your love and care. When I feel water run through my fingers, remind me of my baptism. Plant deep in my heart a knowledge of your unending love. Amen.

Written by Andrea Denney, Executive Director of Operational Ministries

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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