Reflections
January 18, 2019, 12:00 PM

I Fumbled Jesus


by The Reverend Anisa Willis

 

In case the weather kept you in this past Sunday, you missed some excitement:  I fumbled Jesus.  On the day we celebrate his baptism by John, I fumbled Jesus.  As I held the paten (the plate we use on the altar that holds the bread) it just tumbled out of my hands. Thankfully I recovered quickly.  There is a first time for everything, and that was a first for me.  I have watched a lot of football over the last few years; I'm typically watching the people protecting the kid with the ball but clearly something has sunk in because that was my first thought, a football analogy.  

 

This left me thinking about the Incarnation and our part in it, so poignantly celebrated last week in Jesus's baptism.  The way Jesus's humanity and Jesus's divinity are so perfectly intertwined in that scene at the River Jordan, and how everyone around scrambled to make sense of it. They were ready to accept smelly, caustic John the Baptist as the Messiah, and here is Jesus and the Holy Spirit descending.  Sometimes something is so outside of what makes sense to you it is hard to know how to proceed.

 

We make mistakes like this too.  We all fumble Jesus.  We don't know what to do with this gift we have been given that is so outside our normal ways of thinking and understanding the world. We have this preciousness given to us, and we mishandle it.  Sometimes this is due to our choosing another way, our sin, but often I think it is just because we are human. 

 

So when we fumble, we have some choices.  We can try to pretend it didn't happen.  That has never really worked for me personally (I am also terrible at card games.  No poker face here).  We can blame someone else or something else.  We can beat ourselves up, even presume there is something fundamentally bad about us, that makes us mess up.  Being raised in a very conservative Protestant tradition, that was my "go to" emotional default, but I think differently now.  Our flaws and weakness don't have to lead us to wallow in our sinfulness, instead they can remind us of how God loves us and seeks better things for us than we dare imagine for ourselves.  

 

I am going to trip over things, and so are you.  In our Baptism we are also claimed as the Beloved of God, and this gives an alternative response.  We can rejoice that even our worst days on this earth-and all the little bad days in between-are not the final word on our character or on our status with the Almighty.  They give us opportunities to learn from what we do, and to be better, and to know ourselves better.  And you know what?  Most people are doing the best they can to get through their day.  Pretty much no one says, "this is going to really mess everything up, but I am going to do it anyway".  When we know better, we do better, and the more we know about our individual and corporate foibles the more we can use our best selves for the benefit of each other and the glory of God.  

 

Some of my favorite passages in the Book of Common Prayer are the Baptismal vows.  At different points in my life different parts have stood out for me.  Right now, I love the idea of repenting and returning to the Lord.  We come back, again and again, to the source of our being and the hope of our faith, and we are welcomed with open arms.