Every Monday night in winter, I grab my shoes and my broom and head to the Steinbach Curling Club to curl with my dad. The old man plays skip, and I play third.
I not only love to actually curl, but I also love simply watching curling on TV. During the Scotties Tournament of Hearts and Brier, I’ll often pull up curling on my phone and go to bed watching the roaring game. When I asked Ashley to marry me, I’m not sure she would have said yes if she knew this was a thing.
I love the strategy behind it. And the technicality behind it. But I also love how down to earth it is, where on most Monday nights, win or lose, both teams head upstairs to the bar and can sit together at a table and laugh at all the shots we missed.
My curling team, this year, had a bit of a rough start. We lost our first 7 games in a row. I’d rather go to the dentist 7 weeks in a row to get my teeth cleaned than lose 7 games in a row.
The good news, though, is that since losing 7 in a row, we have now won 8 in a row. Yes, we are in the B division and not the A division, but still, we have won 8 in a row, and that is better than losing 8 in a row. I like to think that we’re peaking at the right time.
But, the real highlight for me, is that I have gone from missing most of my shots, to making more of my shots. And I think that my improved shot making is having a direct impact on our overall record.
Now, obviously, the better you play the more likely you are to win… That’s in any sport. But in curling, how well you play directly affects the person after you. So, in our case, me making my shots means that my dad has relatively easy shots to make, like an open draw, or an open hit. But, if I miss my shots, oh my, then the old skipper has to get in the hack and make an angle raise double take-out every end. Which he usually misses. And then we lose.
Most curling games cannot be won by the skip alone. In order to win, most curling games require the whole team to play well. You cannot win by yourself.
In today’s Scripture reading, Jesus got baptized. But, he did not baptize himself.
He asked John the Baptist to do it. And, every time I preach about John the Baptist, I simply have to use this picture. Every time.
Although this year, a random person on the internet sent me a picture of John the Baptist in the Red River in winter, which is just delightful.
Jesus INSISTED that John baptize him. The son of God, the prince of Peace, the Messiah, was adamant that a regular human preacher baptize him.
Jesus allowed this to happen to him. He surrendered. He gave his consent. He trusted the people around him. Jesus did not consider himself strong or independent or superior. He actually did the opposite. He took a position of inferiority and vulnerability and dependence.
And only then was he ready to be baptized.
His baptism was not a sign of him being ready, that he had reached some magical level of faith maturity, or having all the answers. No! It happened at the beginning of his ministry. It was a sign of him being open.
Open to God’s way of living.
Well, I like to think of baptism being about both coupling and uncoupling .
We couple ourselves, we link ourselves, we ally ourselves, we choose to place ourselves in the Kingdom of God… We couple ourselves to God’s rule, both in our hearts and in our world. We open ourselves up to walking together as a community, to care for each other, to be the body, to both give and receive grace and peace, to love God and to love our neighbours as ourselves, and to orient our lives around being a disciple of Jesus.
Also, we uncouple ourselves, we break up, we dissociate, we disconnect ourselves from that which is the opposite of God. Selfishness, racism, the desire for vengeance and revenge, sexism, hatred, nationalism, rage, envy, and more
Now I know that these lists are pretty intense. And none of us are really good at doing or not doing all these things all the time. But again, the story of Jesus’ baptism isn’t about him arriving, or having it all together. It’s about the intent. The openness. The allowing of God to change our lives. The aligning of our lives with God’s purposes. And the community of people that commits itself to walk together, and invites others to join them on that path.
Not because we’re good at it. But because we want to.
Well, I’ve already talked about my parents today, so now I’ll talk about my marriage.
Ash and I got married young. Now that I’m old and wise I say that we got married too young to not know that we didn’t know anything. But we have no regrets. I’ve rather enjoyed getting old and wise with Ashley, and becoming a couple that wants to go to sleep at 9pm every night.
But we didn’t wait to get married until we had all the answers. Or knew how to be a great husband and wife. We learned along the way. There have been moments where I have been an above average husband, like this year for Ashley’s birthday, when I arranged that the staff and students at her school would give her a special present from me every hour she was at work. And moments where I’ve been a below average husband, like that winter when our toaster broke so her Christmas present was a new toaster that was on sale for fifteen bucks.
You don’t think about all these things on your wedding day. How can you? Life is hard sometimes. And you don’t know when those toasters are going to be on sale. But you can think about why you’re getting married, how you intend to treat each other, and how you’ll figure out the details as they come, but you know it’ll be okay because no matter what you, you’ll face them together.
But postures of openness, intent, vulnerability and commitment are pretty important to healthy relationships.
And when we do adopt these postures in our spiritual lives, we join others along the way. Because none of us can baptize ourselves. We are part of a 58 year old Grace Mennonite Church tradition, a 494 year old Anabaptist tradition, and a 2000 year old Jesus tradition, all of which have been filled with saints holding the Christ light for us. And we are invited to do the same for the next 58 years, the next 494 years, and the next 2000 years.
Because none of us can baptize ourselves.
But, my favourite part of this story is at the end, where a dove comes down and we hear God speaking.
This is the first time we hear God speak in the New Testament, so we should probably pay attention to what she is saying.
“This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.”
See, these are two lines from Old Testament Scriptures:
Psalm 2:7, invoking images of being a king.
I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:
He said to me, “You are my son;
today I have become your father.
And Isaiah 42:1 , showing what kind of King he will be… A different kind of king: one that serves, and one that will bring justice to the nations.
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout or cry out,
or raise his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
In his teaching the islands will put their hope.”
A king who serves, and works for justice
“This is my beloved son; I am well pleased.”
I like to think that these words, spoken by God, apply to us today.
That of all the voices in our world that tell us that we’re not good enough, that we need to be better and try harder, that we need to look a certain way or do a certain thing. A voice can penetrate them all with the words: You are my beloved child, and with you, I am well pleased.
God has chosen us. All we can do is to allow that love into our lives and let it rule. We just have to receive it. We just have to say yes to it. We just to give God permission.