Recently I have felt “out of sorts.” I can’t put my finger on it. I guess it’s a mixture of missing our “old” life in Milwaukee, trying to settle into our “new” life in Florida, and seeking to establish a routine that is productive, creative, and fulfilling. It’s taking some time to make all of that happen.
That’s why I’m finding the routine of the Church Year comforting. The rhythm and pattern of following the life of Jesus and then the life and growth of the church brings a certain calm and security. I’ve been through this pattern year after year throughout the course of my life. There’s something to be said for familiarity. It brings “sameness” while there is change all around.
Lauren Winner also reminded me of this in her new book, Still: Notes on a Mid-Life Faith Crisis. Yesterday’s date on the liturgical calendar was The Baptism of Our Lord. Winner writes brilliantly about the meaning of that special day:
The Epiphany story that most tempts my memory is the story of Jesus’ baptism. There is John at the river Jordan, and there are all those unwashed people who have come for his baptism, and in the queue is Jesus, who is without sin, who shouldn’t be in that line with all those sinning people: with Sam, the notorious adulterer; Jack, who’s known for swindling old ladies out of their last bit of income; Lila, who’s rumored to have committed infanticide; and also Mina, who’s just not very nice; and Michael, the prideful prig; and Gary, who made a fortune using shady business tactics. One by one, each of these sinners appears at the head of John’s line. And then Jesus appears. And John says, “I need to be baptized by you, and you come to me?” and Jesus insists.
The official reason that this is an Epiphany story is that after Jesus is baptized, a dove alights, and a voice comes from heaven declaring, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The voice is taken to be the answer to Epiphany’s question: this is who Jesus is — he is God’s well-beloved and pleasing son. But this year, hearing in church again about Jesus’ baptism, I wonder if, before the voice from heaven and the celestial dove, it is also Jesus standing in line by the river that tells us who he is. At Christmastime, the church called Jesus Emmanuel, which means God-with-us — and now he is with us in the baptismal queue. He is the One who stands with humanity in this line that is all about our sinning, our shame.
And I am in this baptismal line too, with all those tawdry first-century sinners, with the embezzler and the adulterer and the prig. I’d prefer to stand aside from them, from the woman who committed infanticide and the man who cooked the books. But I stand here too. It feels like a relief.
It’s a relief to stand in that line. It brings comfort. It brings certainty. It brings familiarity.
But most importantly, it brings forgiveness.
And that is what I need to bring a life that is somewhat “out of sorts” back into sync again.
What is it that brings you comfort when you’re feeling “out of sorts”?