Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Sunday, January 10, 2021

YEAR B 2021 baptism of our lord

Baptism of Our Lord, 2021
Genesis 1:1-5
Acts 19:1-7
Mark 1:4-11
Psalm 29

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

What a year we’ve had this week.  But let’s start here.  There are two versions of the Creation story in Genesis.  We heard the start of the first version a few minutes ago, from Genesis chapter one.  The second account of Creation is in chapter two, and includes Adam and Eve in the garden.  Now, the first one, the “In the beginning” one, was written first, and scholars currently place it sometime before 500 BC, during the Babylonian Captivity.

The Babylonian Captivity is the name we give to the time when Jerusalem was sacked, and all the Jews were taken away in bondage to Babylon.  With their city destroyed, and being forced to go live in foreign lands, you can imagine their despair.  Everything they’ve known has been taken away from them.  They have no idea what the future will hold.  They don’t know whether they will ever see their homeland again.  They no doubt thought that God had abandoned them.

In the midst of this chaos and pain and uncertainty, they get this hopeful reminder: In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. 

God has not abandoned them.  Though all seems lost and confusing and hopeless, there in the background, stands God.  Creating, and sustaining life, and bringing order out of chaos, and calling it good.  Exactly the reminder they need when everything seems lost.  Everything might be terrible right now, but the sun will still come up in the morning.  Because God created the heavens and the earth, and God called them good.

And then, on Wednesday afternoon, after listening to a speech from our president,  an angry mob invaded our nation’s Capitol building.  They broke windows, ransacked offices, injured dozens of uniformed officers, and beat one of those officers to death with a fire extinguisher.  They desecrated the Peoples’ House.  Some arrived with the intention of taking elected representatives hostage . . . or worse.  Some people left bombs at both the DNC and RNC headquarters.  Some smeared feces on the walls of the Capitol.

And then . . . they just walked away.  Hundreds, if not thousands, did all that in broad daylight, on television, and then just walked away.

For decades we have been told that we must fear and defend against "radical Islamic terrorism."  But some in this mob were carrying the Christian flag, and flags with the fish symbol on them, and holding signs that read “Jesus is Lord.”

For the past four years we have been told that we must live in fear of caravans of refugees seeking asylum at our southern border.  But the mob who attacked uniformed officers live north of that border.  US citizens—they’re already here.

Since 2016, we have been told that an athlete who kneels during the National Anthem is disrespecting our flag and cannot be a patriot.  And on Wednesday, our fellow Americans removed a flag flying over the Capitol, threw it to the ground, and raised a flag with the president’s name on it in its place.

Since last June, we have been told to respond with fear and anger to Black Lives Matter protestors destroying buildings and disrespecting our laws.  But you’ve seen the video footage from this week.  These were not BLM activists marching for equal rights and breaking windows at some 7-11 in their own neighborhood.  This mob flew in planes or rode on buses to Washington, from all over the country.  Instead of stealing a pair of shoes or a television, this mob stole the lectern of the Speaker of the House, and laptops with classified information on them.  These thugs were white, and violent, and Christian, and anti-Democracy, and traveled to our nation’s capital to desecrate one of our most sacred secular shrines.

And after all of that, after everything they had just seen and experienced, members of Congress went back into their chambers, and 145 of them and voted to delay the peaceful transfer of power.  

For years we have been told to lock the nation’s doors, don’t let anyone else in.  But, as it turns out, like in the move, “A Stranger Calls,” the phone calls are coming from inside the house.  Right where we live.  Our neighbors.  Our fellow Americans.  The self-proclaimed “patriots.”  We have met the enemy, and they are us.

When things like this happen, people are fond of saying, “This is not America,” or, “This is not who we are.”  But . . . as we look around . . . well, yes it is America.  And yes, it is who we are.  Turns out, we don’t need Islamic terrorists, or southern caravans, or kneeling football players, or BLM to divide us from one another.  We are already a broken, divided, dysfunctional country.  That is clear to everyone.  All around the world.  And it is really, really hard to be hopeful right now.

And, perhaps like the Jewish people, living in exile after their country has been burned to the ground, we may be asking ourselves, Where is God in all of this?  How do I find any hope?

And we get the same response I gave a few minutes ago: God has not abandoned us either.  Though all seems lost and confusing and hopeless, there, among us, stands God.  Faithful as ever.  Creating, and sustaining life, and bringing order out of chaos.  Exactly the reminder we need when everything seems lost.  Everything might look terrible right now, but the sun will still come up in the morning.  Because God created the heavens and the earth, and God called them good.

And there’s more.  Today we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus.  And it’s important to note that we celebrate this event, because in our own baptism we are united with Jesus in his baptism.  We heard it in the reading from Acts:  The disciples are baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.  Just as you and I are baptized into the name of our Lord Jesus.  In baptism, God establishes an unbreakable bond with each one of us.  A bond that cannot be taken away.

And when you were baptized, the same thing happened to you as when Jesus was baptized.  The heavens opened, and God said, “You are my daughter, my son, my child, the beloved; with you I am well pleased.”  You are God’s beloved child, and your very existence brings pleasure to God.  That’s the thing for us to hold onto these days.  God loves you. Unconditionally.

And that is how we begin to change all of the stuff we have seen this past week.  You and I can walk out into the world this afternoon, safe in the knowledge that God loves us.  Sure in the promise that God has not given up on this world.  Secure in the hope that God brings life out of death, and love out of hatred.  We can change this, because God loves us.  And, when we renew our Baptismal Covenant in just a few moments, we will promise to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves, with God’s help.  With.  God’s.  Help.  That is how we will rebuild all of this.  With God’s help.

No matter what we have been through, no matter what the days and weeks and months ahead may bring, God is still standing with us, still creating, still well-pleased in us, and still declaring us good and beloved.  Never let go of that promise.  God loves you, and God is pleased with you.  You are loved.  And you will always be loved.  So now, please, go out and tell the world.


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