Redemption and wilderness experience go together. Isaiah’s covenant people know God’s love by going through literal and figurative flood and fire, by enduring exile and fear. God’s covenant-making and -keeping engages us with powerful forces.

In Israel’s experience, geopolitics are at stake: “I give . . . nations in exchange for your life.” These lines in Isaiah 43 trouble us. Perhaps the sojourning God headed for the new creation will rearrange human structures and expectations with wild abandon for the sake of justice and love. God gives Egypt as ransom. Ethiopia? Rome? The Holy Roman Empire? The United States? The hegemony of oil, coal, and mineral extraction to suit the whims of humanity at the expense of other creatures? How wild are we willing for God to be to accomplish the divine purpose for creation? Will we risk this God being “with us”?

God does not promise life without crossing rivers and passing through flames, but God promises to protect us through water and fire. The unmistakable character of the relationship is one of redemption, endearment, love, and purposeful destiny. God’s choosing us is dynamic, creative, and personal.

Baptism brings us from far away to make us sons and daughters formed for the glory of God. Birth and new birth are wildly creative. John the evangelist writes, “The wind blows where it chooses. . . . So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).

God creates wildly, and we know God’s love best on the edge of the river, in the eye of the storm, in the moral arc of the universe rising up in long-denied dignity and justice, in earth’s ecosystems warning of human excess, and in contemplating the mystery of the many ways the Spirit-wind-breath descends and claims us.

God of the wilderness, when I step back from risk, bring me through the waters to your just and creative purpose. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

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Lectionary Week
January 7–13, 2019
Scripture Overview

Water is an important theme throughout the Bible. The authors of scripture use water as an image of transition and sometimes challenge and always tie it back to God’s renewing work. Isaiah records the divine promise that God will not abandon Israel, even if they pass through trying waters—a reference to the deliverance of the Israelites from the Egyptians. The psalmist declares that God’s voice covers all the waters, so nothing can come against us that is beyond God’s reach. In Acts we see the connection between baptism—passing through the water—and the gift of the Holy Spirit. The emphasis is on the inclusion of the Samaritans, a group considered unclean by many but not by God. We see clearly the connection between water baptism and the Spirit in the baptism of Jesus himself.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

Read Isaiah 43:1-7. Isaiah presents an image of God’s favor that is at once particular and universal. How do you experience God’s love for you as part of the body of Christ as well as for all persons?
Read Psalm 29. God’s creation, in its wildness, incorporates destruction. In the face of disaster, how do you find a way to say, “Glory”?
Read Acts 8:14-17. Our baptism is in the name of Jesus and the name of the Spirit. To what wildness does the Spirit prompt you?
Read Luke 3:15-17, 21-22. Remember your baptism and listen for God’s call out into the wildness of the world.

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