Sunday, January 10, 2021

1 Epiphany/Baptism of Our Lord


January 10, 2021

 

Genesis 1.1-5; Mark 1.4-1

 

+ So, as you may know, I was under the weather this past week.

 

It wasn’t Covid or anything contagious.

 

So, I’ve been out of the loop.

 

So…did anything interesting happen in the news last week?

 

No big deal.

 

You guys can fill me in later.

 

I’m sure I couldn’t have missed out on THAT much, right?

 

Actually, yes, I actually have been keeping up with what has been happening.

 

And if you follow me on any of my social media, you know I’ve been quite outspoken this week.

 

And my Twitter account hasn’t ben permanently suspended.

 

As this past week shows, we are living in a very bizarre and contentious time.

 

A very scary time.

 

Now, whatever side you may be on the issue, we all have to admit: Wednesday was a dark day for us as a nation.

 

And the terrorists—they are not patriots, they are terrorists, domestic terrorists—who did this are not faceless people anymore.

 

We all I do know is this:

 

In the end, 5 people are dead.

 

And suddenly all the talk, all the rhetoric, all the bravado changed.

 

And changed quickly.

 

It all came home.

 

And those who allowed this happen, those who stirred all this up, who threw gasoline on the smoldering ashes of the mess we are in in the country,—well, their day of reckoning has now dawned.

 

Do you remember what I say again and again from this pulpit?

 

I said it several years and I say it again today.

 

The chickens always come home to roost.

 

And this week, the sky was black with roosting chickens.

 

The fact, as Jesus tells us clearly, we reap what we sow.

 

And it is harvest time.

 

There are consequences to our actions.

 

And that is why, as followers of Jesus, we need to be careful—very carefully—about our actions.

 

And our actions are not just do with our hands.

 

Our actions are what we say with our mouths.

 

Our actions are the choices we make in this life.

 

Our actions are who we chose to follow, who we choose to side with, who we choose to claim as our leaders.

 

Our actions are the tweets and the Facebook messages and the memes we share.

 

I’m guilty of it too.

 

I do it.

 

But the fact is, we need to be better than this.

 

We need to rise above this.

 

We can’t keep supporting this kind of behavior.

 

Because there are consequences to those things we support as well.

 

Sometimes there are hard choices—more difficult than any of us can possibly understand.

 

But those choices we make have consequences.

 

Hopefully we make choices in which consequences are for our good and the good of others.

 

And we all reap those rewards.

 

But when we make choices that are not for our good, or for the good of others, we still must reap those consequences as well.

 

And through it, we all know this, God sees.

 

God knows.

 

And yes, God forgives.

 

But God’s forgiveness does not preclude the fact that we must still reap whatever harvest we have planted.

 

Now, this past Wednesday, this dark, ugly day for our country, was also the Feast of the Epiphany, ironically.

 

Epiphany is a beautiful feast.

 

A feast that deals with the Christ Child, the Magi, the star of Bethlehem.

 

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, January 6 is Christmas for them.

 

Epiphany is a very important day for us Episcopalians too.

 

For us, we do weird Episcopal things Proclaim of the Date of Easter and bless chalk which we then take home to bring blessings upon our homes.

 

If this was a normal time, we could be gathering after Mass today for coffee hour, wherein we be eating Three Kings Cake.

 

I have never missed Three Kings Cake more than I  have this year.

 

Today is the Sunday in which we commemorate the Baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan.

 

It is another important Sunday in our Church Year.

 

In our Gospel reading for today, we find a very clear example of God’s reaching out to us.

 

We hear it in the Voice of God proclaiming to Jesus as he is baptized in the River Jordan,

 

“You are…my Beloved; with you I am well pleased,”

 

We find God reaching out to us in this baptism of Jesus.

 

And we find God reaching out in the Holy Spirit descending as a dove upon Jesus.

 

It is an incredible event—in the lives of those first followers and in our lives as Christians as well.

 

Here the standard is set.

 

In this moment, it has all come together.

 

In this moment, it is all very clear how this process is happening.

 

Here the breakthrough has happened to some extent.

 

For us it’s important because we too are still experiencing the benefits of that event.

 

This is more than Jesus’s baptism we celebrate today.

 

We are actually celebrating what happened at our own Baptism today.

 

What was spoken by God to Jesus is spoken to us as well in our baptisms:

 

“You are my Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

 

Yes, I know: I preach a lot about baptism.

 

And I don’t just mean that I preach a lot about how much I like doing baptisms.

 

I preach often about how important each of our baptisms are to us because they are important.

 

Baptism is more than just a sprinkling rite we do here.

 

It’s more than just a christening we do of babies.

 

It is a radical event in our life—a life altering event.

 

In Baptism we are essentially adopted by God as one of God’s children.

 

We are made members of the Church (we become Christian).

 

And, as children of our God, we become inheritors of God’s Kingdom.

 

But even more than just that.

 

After the Baptism, when the priest traces a cross on the newly baptized person’s forehead, she or he says, “You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own for ever.”

 

This is essential to our belief of what happens at baptism.

 

And you’ve heard me peach about this over and over again because, in my estimation,  it is so essential.

 

In baptism, we are all marked as Christ’s own.

 

For ever.

 

It is a bond that can never be broken. We can try to break it as we please. We can struggle under that bond.

 

We can squirm and resist it.

 

We can try to escape it.

 

But the simple fact is this: we can’t.

 

For ever is for ever.

 

No matter how much we may turn our backs on Christ, Christ never turns his back on us.

 

Not even when we become violent and try to overthrow democracy and the government.

 

No matter how much we try to turn away from Christ, to deny Christ, to pick Christ apart and make Christ something other than who he is, Christ never turns his back on us.

 

Christ never denies us.

 

What Baptism shows us, more than anything else, is that we always belong to Christ.

 

It shows us that Christ will never deny us or turn away from us.

 

When we realize that, we also realize that Baptism is THE defining moment in our lives as Christians.

 

 

What Baptism shows us, more than anything else, is that we always belong and are bound to a truly loving God.

 

It is shows us that God will never deny us or turn away or be separate from us.

 

Each of us is accepted and loved and equal to each other as children of a loving, living God.

 

But Baptism—just like our entire Christian life—is more than just feeling warm and fuzzy about our faith.

 

It’s more than Jesus and me.

 

Baptism is also about getting up and doing our baptism in this world.

 

It is also about standing up against evil and violence and hatred.

 

In our Baptismal Covenant, which we will renew here in a few moments, we promise a few things:

 


Celebrant

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving
your neighbor as yourself?

People

I will, with God's help.

 

Celebrant

Will you strive for justice and peace among all
people, and respect the dignity of every human
being?

People

I will, with God's help.

 

 

Will you strive for justice and peace among all peoples?

 

Will you respect the dignity of every human being?

 

You know what that means?

 

That means not being violent.

 

That means not killing people.

 

That means not swarming the streets and trying to overthrow the government because people have fed us lies about votes being stolen.

 

That means not being racists, and waving the confederate flag and the swastika—the very symbols of hate and oppression and fascism—through the Capitol building of the United States of America.  

 

That means knowing that racism is an offensive sin against our God.

 

It’s a sin because when we are racist we are not seeking and serving Christ in all people, nor are we loving our neighbor as ourselves.

 

That means not ostrasizing people from the Church and calling them Pariahs

 

You can serve Christ and still deny Christ in the faces of others.

 

As people sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever, we cannot do these things.

 

Because by doing so, we not only reap what we sow.

 

We also deny Christ.

 

See, baptism isn’t some sweet little christening rite after all.

 

It is radical.

 

It is life-altering.

 

The action of our baptism has life-long consquences.

 

The action of our baptism has eternal consequences.

 

We are all loved children of our God.

 

Christ will never be separated from us. 

 

We are ablaze with the fire of the Holy Spirit.

 

Knowing that, let us go now from where we are to share God’s love and peace and acceptance with one another.

 

Let us  love, full and completely.

 

And let us listen for those words—those beautiful, lulling words—that are spoken to each of us, with love and acceptance:

 

“You are my Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

 

Let us pray.

Holy and loving God, we are grateful today that we are your children, and that through the waters of baptism and the cross, we are bound to Jesus with an unbreakable bond. Help us as strive to live out our baptism in this often dark and violent world. In this world in which the fires of fear and hatred are stoked and those in authority seek their own purposes and not the purposes of all of us, help us to see that you are constantly bringing down the mighty and raising up the lowly, because that is the very essence of your Kingdom. In Jesus name, we pray.  


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