Someone emailed me during the week to say that the image of Jesus among the masses in the muddy waters had really held their attention. It had for me, as well. Of course, we know it is true. Every Gospel portrays it that way. But taking the time to correct the image and actually see it that way is truly powerful. In Ignatian spirituality, you might be invited to enter the scene like this:
What do you smell as you look at all those fishermen and peasants and slaves and criminals and housewives huddled around? Can youfeel the pressure Jesus must have felt – not just in his mind and spirit? Pressure on his body as multitudes of others pressed upon him and each other in every direction. Can you hear the water churning, and the penitents weeping, and the washed ones laughing? Naked bodies – an reflection of their unveiled longing – slipping on the mud beneath their feet unashamed, thirsty, hopeful. As you picture the scene, are you one of them? Do you catch a glimpse of Jesus getting baptized? You know, the Gospels are unclear about what anyone besides Jesus actually saw or heard, but what about you – do you see the sky torn open? The form of a dove? Did you hear the voice? Or do you, perhaps, just sense the electricity? Whatever you witnessed, in that huddle, could you tell if it was directed at him, or maybe it was at you? Beloved. Beloved.
Jesus was in the muddy water with all of them, and he continues in the muddy water of our world’s groaning today.
Yet, on Thursday and Friday, Smith ended with prayers with a reference to ‘indwelling.’ Today the point is made explicit. The Spirit that drives us into the wilderness is not some outside force. [She] is in our own guts, our own bowels – the ancient seat of emotions and sincerity like the heart is for us today.
To me, it is amazing to think that just as Jesus (God) found himself and claimed his home in the muddy mire of the Jordan alongside the multitude – so Holy Spirit (God) makes a home in the muddy mire of our own bowels, within our very selves.
God in the heavens.
God in the mud.
God in my own bowels.
OK, we know this to be true just as surely as that Jesus was baptized with the multitude. But, most of us also know it just as abstractly. The picture is still of a distance God. (I mean, how loudly and dramatically do you say your prayers at church, as if to make sure God out thee hears and understands, even though [Ze] was already cradling those prayers for you in your own breast!)
Just as it is potent to go through the exercise of currenting the image of Jesus alone facing John, it is worthwhile now to correct the image beyond any doubt that God is not just out there; *GOD is living in your soul.* Oh, and by the way, your soul is not some abstract thing apart from your body. No, indeed, GOD living in your flesh and bowels.
What does [He] look like there? What concerns press upon God within you? Can you see God’s Spirit tearing open the dung heaps in the corner and pouring out streams of living water from your own identity?
I dare not paint the scene as dramatically as the one of Jesus at the Jordan. But you know, as I do, what smells, and sounds, and sensations… what frailties and aches and breakings… what temptations and addiction the Spirit dwelling within you has chosen to be in solidarity with, as the waters of God swirl a rich ecosystem of Life.
Isn’t it amazing to REALIZE that God – Holy Spirit – is there in all [Their] majesty, just as truly as Jesus was in the Jordan!
Now, we can wonder at Smith’s reflection: Is each of us willing to take up the spade and poke through the dung to find that Majestic Glory who abides within, waiting for us to lean in and hear the word:
The Rev. adwoa Wilson