Jesus: The Early Years ~ Authentic Grit

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 3:21-22

Last Friday I treated myself to a movie.

In a movie theatre.

I know…this could cost a person one’s entire paycheck if he or she is not careful!

But my local theatre has a great “early bird” showing price – $4.50 for any show beginning before 2:30pm every day.

To that I say, “tweet tweet.”

I saw “Les Miserables.”  I thought it was spectacular.  The music – the sets – the costumes – the casting.  I laughed – I cried – I hummed along.  I even sang in a few instances…the theatre was rather empty…it was an 11am showing.

I have seen other installments of the film (one day I hope to see a stage production).  I have read Hugo’s work…and portions of it in French.  But each time I see it I am still not prepared for the graphic and dire straits in which the people of France find themselves.

I find the words from We Three Kings fitting, “sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying…”

Driven mad by hunger, sickness, anger, grief, and guilt.  Feeling completely alone in a sea of people.  Wanting for companionship – true companionship.  Craving the chance for a fresh start.

Aching for hope.

Mind, Jesus was not a contemporary of the 1832 June Rebellion of Paris.

But

as he presented himself for baptism at the banks of Jordan River, the community gathered around him may have felt a kindred heart with the characters crafted by Hugo.

The Gospel according the Luke tells us that the baptism of Jesus occurred with “all the people.”  And who were these people?  We know they weren’t all “high society.”  Some of them may have been.  But most of them – most of them were characters the likes of Les Mis.

Robert M. Brearley describes it this way, “Jesus presented himself for baptism as an act of solidarity with a nation and a world of sinners.  Jesus simply got in line with everyone who had been broken by the “wear and tear” of this selfish world and had all but given up on themselves and their God.  When the line of downtrodden and sin-sick people formed in hopes of new beginnings through a return to God, Jesus joined them.  At his baptism, he identified with the damaged and broken people who needed God.”*

If you are familiar with Les Mis you know that a sort of line was formed among the townspeople that were recruited for the rebellion.  Leaders were appointed and they spearheaded the revolt until they met their fates through musket fire and canon blasts.  But the people who sought change fought for it and remained resilient.  The closing scene of the film is an image of rebirth – the townspeople emerging from the wreckage, claiming the newness of their lives out from under the regime, claiming their agency, claiming their destiny.

Jesus joined a line of downtrodden folk seeking new life through healing waters.  That new life also sparked a rebellion of sorts.  Some wanted it to be more of a political rebellion – perhaps along the lines of Les Mis – but what occurred first was more an ideological and spiritual awakening and realignment.  Jesus was and continues to be the leader, the shepherd, of this movement.  His leadership led him to his death, which is our threshold to eternal life, our truth rebirth.

Jesus got in line with humanity.  He got in line with you and me.  And all our mess.  He got in line with Les Miserables The Miserables and in his baptism, suffering death, and resurrection proved to us his unyielding commitment.

Prayer: Holy God, when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan the heavens opened, the Spirit descended, and your voice affirmed your love in Jesus for the healing of the human race and all creation.  By water and word you lovingly invite us into this same life-giving mission.  May your Spirit, moving like a stream of water flowing from its source, work in us this day to realize your vision of a world made new in Christ, in whose name we pray.  Amen.**

* Quote from David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Feasting On the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C, Volume 1 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 240.

** Prayer from Kimberly Bracken Long, ed., Feasting On the Word Worship Companion: Liturgies for Year C (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012), 46.

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