“Consenting to Life”
The Sanctuary Sermon for 8/2/20
The Sanctuary Sermon for 8/2/20
“Consenting to Life” Matthew 3:13-17
When our son, Andrew, was about seven years old he came home one afternoon from school and told me about his day on the playground. It had been a difficult one, things had not gone like he wanted. I don’t particularly remember what happened but whatever it was, it messed up his day.
I listened as he told me all about it and when he finished, I asked him what he did. “Oh,” he said, “I just dealed with it.”
“I just dealed with it.” There’s wisdom in what he said, and it applies to any age. I’ve held on to those words for the last twenty-five years. They remind me that whether we are seven years old, seventeen, or seventy-five, we all have situations asking to be “dealed with.” Here’s what I mean by that.
We’ve all had days when life caught us off guard and took us completely by surprise. Things that we could neither plan for nor foresee, something unexpectedly showed up in an otherwise ordinary day. Chances are you had your plans disrupted last week, certainly last month in some way. Have you ever felt like more was being asked of you than you had to give? You didn’t feel up to it or didn’t feel like you were enough. The unexpected leaves us feeling confused and maybe lost, something has happened that didn’t make sense. Have you ever had a situation you wanted to say no to, something you didn’t want to do or have to deal with?
We all have those kinds of stories. There’s not one of us here that has escaped that. I think that’s exactly where John the Baptist was when Jesus came to be baptized.
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Jesus has come from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. It’s something John never expected or foresaw. He didn’t plan on this. “I need to be baptized by you,” he says to Jesus, “and you come to me?” Baptizing Jesus does not fit John’s expectations of who Jesus is and what he will do. What about the ax, the winnowing fork, the unquenchable fire? The order and structure of John’s world are being turned upside down. Jesus is the “more powerful” one and John is “not worthy to carry his sandals.” Jesus is supposed to increase and John decrease.
Everything about this moment is contrary to what John believes, wants, and expects. And we’ve all be there. We know what that’s like. When has that happened to you? When has your world been turned upside down? And what do you do when it happens?
What do you do when your prayer is not answered, the budget doesn’t work out, expectations are not met? What do you do when your plan doesn’t come together, a relationship ends, or life is traumatically interrupted? What do you do when it’s a hard day, week or month and you just want to say no to life and run away? Later, when John is imprisoned by Herod, he sends his ‘people’ to ask Jesus if he’s the one or should they look for another?
Today’s gospel sets before us two choices. We can either resist, forbid, and try to prevent what is coming to us, which is what John wants to do. Or we can permit it and “let it be,” which is what Jesus tells John to do.
“Let it be so now,” Jesus says to John. “Then he consented.” What if that’s to be our way too? What if Jesus is saying to us, “Let it be so now?” What if we too are being asked to consent?
The consent to which Jesus calls us isn’t simply about giving up, acquiescing, approving, or agreeing. It’s about a way of life. It’s about Jesus’ way of life. It doesn’t mean we have to like or want what is happening. It does, however, mean that we face it and deal with it.
Consent means we show up to our life and be present to whatever is before us and whatever is coming to us, even if it is difficult, painful, or the last thing we wanted. Consent isn’t about being in control or having all the answers. It means we don’t turn back or run away from what’s in front of us. We don’t have to do everything that is set before us, but neither can we resist doing what is our part.
Consent doesn’t mean passively accepting whatever happens. It means actively giving ourselves to the circumstances, relationships, and people before us. It’s an act of risk and vulnerability. And it’s a profession of faith, hope, and love. It means staying open and remaining receptive to whatever in that moment is being asked of us in the name of God.
That’s how Jesus lived his life. His life was a continual yes to the world, to you, and to me. He lived a life of consent.
He consented to bring good news to the poor
He consented to welcome the outsider and foreigner
He consented to hospitality for the hungry and thirsty
He consented to raise Lazarus into the fragrance of new life
He consented to intimacy when Mary anointed and kissed his feet
He consented to compassion and healing for the blind, deaf, and lame
He consented to abundance when the wine ran out
He consented to be a servant of all and wash dirty feet
He consented to speak truth to power
He consented to struggle with God and himself in the Garden of Gethsemane
He consented to courage and perseverance as he took up and carried his cross
He consented to humility when soldiers mocked and beat him
He consented to forgiveness because we did not know what we were doing
He consented to life in the face of death.
He consented to reconcile with Peter after being denied by him three times
Jesus never turned away, backed down, or withheld his consent. He was present and showed up to whoever or whatever was before him. Every time Jesus consented, he stepped into the river of humanity and immersed himself in the waters of your life and my life.
Consent is an act of solidarity, a standing with another. Jesus asked John to stand with him, to stand with him in the river of humanity. So, Jesus stands with us.
That’s how I want to live. I want to be a continual yes to the world and others. I want live a life of consent. Don’t you? I want to look back on my life and say, “I just dealed with it.”
What would that look like for you today? What would it mean for you to give consent to the people and circumstances before you? It might be in parenting, or at work, caring for or being present to another, working on your recovery, healing a relationship, or setting out in a new direction.
The opportunities for consent come to us every day. Maybe you’re being asked to consent to love and forgiveness, compassion and courage, hope and beauty. What is being asked of you today?
Every time we consent we wade into the deep waters of life. We stand with Jesus in the river of humanity and together we fulfill all righteousness – nothing gets left undone and no one gets left out.
“Let it be so now.”
Let’s consent, be present and say, we dealed with it.
This is the Word of the Lord for the day.