For the Word made flesh, Jesus didn’t talk much in the beginning. The Father and the Spirit and John the Baptist did the talking for him. Today’s Gospel starts with John recapping what we saw last week. At Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, the Spirit descended as a dove, and the voice of God rang out, proclaiming Jesus to be God’s son. And frankly, telling the story is about all John has to do to convince Peter and Andrew that Jesus is worth following.
So, a couple notes about what is going on here. First, notice that Peter (or, Simon Peter if you prefer) and Andrew were already disciples of John the Baptist. They didn’t wander in as strangers. As his disciples, they would have been learning from him, particularly about the one who was to come after him. John had told them about the baptism, about what had happened. So the next day when John says “look, here is the Lamb of God” they have some idea of what he means.
I think this is pretty important, because it makes this all a little more relatable. Those unmistakable God moments when the world is transformed or choirs of angels sing or a beam of light shines down in a way that makes sure you know this is a God moment sure sound nice. But here, the first disciples are in the presence of Jesus, which surely qualifies as a God moment, and they know it’s him only because their teacher told them. Where we would expect some sort of grand display of divine power and charisma, there is only a wild-eyed man who has been too long in the wilderness telling his students that this is the one.
The first disciples were taught to follow Jesus, and learned who he was by word of mouth first. So it remains to this day. We share the stories of Jesus, we gather around a table to remember him, so that we might be able to recognize him in our life. The things we do in church all serve to help us make that connection.
Secondly, you can see how baptism and the Trinity became such central parts of Christianity. If the things we do together are to help us recognize and follow Jesus, then what better way to formally begin that following than by participating in the same rite that revealed his divinity? When we baptise people, we proclaim them to be part of the body of Christ, that is, part of the collective that seeks to live lives patterned on Jesus’ life.
Now, the Trinity is really just the model we use to try to understand something of how God works. It was first formulated about a century and half after the time of Jesus. It is a theological construct, but it’s a dynamic one. If we think of God as a household made up of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then the thing that happens at Jesus’ baptism is an invitation to join. Jesus, the clearest example, the most relatable manifestation of God’s love, sent to reach out to the whole world, and the Spirit, which flows through each person, which calls each person toward God, are in effect offering you and me a seat at God’s table. God constantly folds the creation into Godself, extending the gift of divine life.
Lovely language, for sure, but what do you do in response? How does one say “yes” to the offer of life alongside God. There are many ways to go about it, and your creativity is a tremendous tool as you do so, but in terms of ritual, baptism quickly became the primary way by which people claimed their seat at God’s table.
And every time we baptise someone, everyone gathered re-affirms their own baptismal covenant. We all re-commit ourselves to this life that we see Andrew and Peter taking the first steps on in today’s Gospel. And how do we do it? We do it by describing that invitation to God’s table. Let’s walk through it.
The baptismal service uses the Apostle’s Creed to affirm our belief in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
We affirm our belief in Jesus, Son of God, born a human and crucified as a human, living a life in between that shows us how to say “yes” to God. His resurrection shows us that even death does not limit God’s love.
And we affirm our faith in the Spirit, whose work our covenant associates with the church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.
So the roles that the persons of the Trinity play according to the baptismal covenant align with the roles they play in inviting us to join the household of God. God the Father creates, Jesus the Son exemplifies and reveals, and the Spirit folds us together and integrates us into the divine dance.
Then there are more questions. Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers? That is, will you do the things that point us toward God, that teach us about God, and that help us to recognize and say “yes” to God. And we will, with God’s help.
Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord? Because living a spotless life if not the expectation. We will try, and we will fail, and we will be honest about it so we can accept the grace of another moment of invitation. We will do it with God’s help.
Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ? That is, will you strive to pattern your life on Jesus? With God’s help, yes.
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? Will you turn this love outward, and will you let it change the way you see other people, so that the transformation in you can become a transformation in the world? We will, with God’s help.
Finally, will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being? Will you work to make the human household look a bit more like the divine household, with a seat at the table for everyone? With God’s help.
This is the journey Peter and Andrew embark on in today’s Gospel. Ironically, we never know if they were baptised. Presumably John baptised them too, But with the help of their teacher, in a community of those who follow God, they take literal steps to follow Jesus.
It’s the beginning of Christianity, right in this moment, and it’s not nearly as dramatic as you would think. A life following Jesus is a life folded in with everything else in life.
Hopefully we can start to see more clearly how this baptism and this revelation of the Trinity really does connect with what we do now. How the Trinity, a theological model invented way after the events described in this Gospel, helps us to understand the multiple experiences of God as in fact an invitation to join.
And for all the things happening in this passages, Jesus says very little. He notices Andrew and Peter following him, and says “What are you looking for?” It’s the part that comes next that should make it clear what he is up to, though. They say “Rabbi, where are you staying” and Jesus, saying explicitly what would become a pattern in all his teachings, what we are invited to each and every day, says to them, “come and see.”