I appreciate that Jesus begins his inaugural address with a blessing. Jesus begins with a positive vision of life. Instead of starting out complaining about all the things people are doing wrong, as many of the prophets did and politicians do, Jesus begins by blessing those who are doing things right. But don't be fooled, for these blessings do have a bite. In every verse where Jesus is talking about the reign of God, he is in the same breath challenging the reign of man. The problem is that we are so familiar with these words that we can't hear how radical they really are. What Jesus is saying and what the authorities are hearing is that when God's Kingdom comes, your kingdom will have to go.
So Isaiah's words come all the way to the West Coast to remind us that even though we are living on the edge, in more ways than one, we can't be written off, for the good news is for us, too. In fact, living in the coastlands of this great country gives us a unique perspective on the gospel. Living on the margins of the continent, we can appreciate a gospel that was intended for people living on the margins.
Baptism is the ritual by which we sign up for a journey that through suffering and death brings us more and more to life. I could never belong to a religion that promised that if you do certain things you can avoid suffering. I can't believe in a god who would use power to relieve some people's suffering and not others. But I can believe in a God who sees what is going on in the world and comes down into human life and participates in human suffering, even death, and is able to bring meaning and hope and new life out of it.