Monday, January 8, 2018

Follow Jesus. New Beginning. All People.

Follow Jesus. New Beginning. All People.
Sermon for January 7, 2018
Baptism of Jesus (First Sunday after the Epiphany)
Church of the Advent, Cincinnati
Mark 1:4-11

Our own Nativity creche here at Advent, with Magi watching
If the Gospel I just read sounds really familiar to you, it’s actually because it’s the same reading I preached on less than a month ago on December 10th, for the 2nd Sunday of Advent. If you find it a little odd that we would do the same reading twice within such a short span - you’re right! but the reason is because the Church is encouraging us to pay attention to 2 different things. During Advent, our focus was on John’s gospel of repentance. But now as we re-read it, our collective focus turns to another important theme in scripture: Baptism. It’s the remembrance of the Baptism of Jesus. 

Some of you know that I’ve been pulling my hair out this week (figuratively!) over a sort of odd situation in our church calendar that left me torn all week about what I was going say to you all today. You see, Yesterday was what’s called the Feast of the Epiphany- it happens always on January 6th. And on the Feast of the Epiphany - a word that means “revealing” or “revelation”, we remember that beautiful story of the Magi - the wise men or kings who came from the East, following the star by night and bringing their gifts to the Christ child. Now, this story takes place, we believe, when Jesus was probably a toddler of about 2 years old.

Now for us here in modern times, we have a really big jump forward, because the very next day - today - we jump forward to the Baptism of Jesus which takes place when he’s a grown man of about 30 years old! So we jump about 28 years in less than 24 hours! And if, by chance you’re not the sort of person who likes to celebrate religious feast days on a Saturday, it’s an even bigger jump because we miss the story of the Magi, the “holy innocents” and the flight to Egypt altogether. We’ve just gone from the birth of Jesus all the way to adulthood from just one Sunday to the next!

So I asked around - I talked to some of you here at Advent, I talked to some clergy friends in Cincinnati, and I even polled my seminary & clergy friends on Facebook about how I ought to deal with these two extraordinarily important but really very different remembrances that we’re both basically celebrating at the same time. I vacillated back & forth for days & eventually my friends appealed to me that actually there’s a lot to be learned from them both. 

Door marked for Epiphany House Blessing. Credit: Mark Branch
Now, I’m giving you a homework assignment. Take out your bibles & open yo Matthew, chapter 2. Sometime this week I want you to read that whole chapter, it should only take you a few minutes. But really spend some time with it. Reflect on it, pray with it, visualize it in your head and walk around with it throughout the week. Find me sometime in the next week or two and tell me what you think. It’s not only the story of the Wise Men from the East, but it’s the story of the terrible order by King Herod to murder the boys in Bethlehem in an attempt to stamp out this newborn baby Jesus who would be a threat to Herod’s grip on the people of Israel. And it’s the story of Jesus, Mary and Joseph fleeing as refugees into Egypt until Herod’s death, and their starting a new life in Nazareth in Galilee where Jesus would come to grow up.
I have a sentence I want you to remember. Repeat after me: 

Following Jesus is a New Beginning for All People.

Following Jesus is a New Beginning for All People.

Following Jesus

Just as the Wise Men got up and followed the star, making the sometimes dangerous and uncertain journey to worship that child Jesus, so we also commit our lives to following Jesus, no matter how far and how difficult the journey. From the day of Jesus’ baptism onward he would call all of us to follow him. For the next several weeks we’ll be talking about what it means to follow Jesus.

New Beginning

As with any young child, a birth represents a new beginning, a new life - and especially with this young baby boy whom these men came from the East to adore. And it was a new beginning for the Wise Men too - their lives would be forever changed by this journey, this encounter with the Christ child. Baptism too, is a re-birth and a new beginning. Jesus’ baptism by John was the beginning of his ministry as an adult - the launching point for the three years of his life that would change the entire world.

All People

The Wise Men were not Jews - they were Gentiles, and people from far away - foreigners! And yet they were among the first to adore and worship Jesus Christ. Through Christ’s Baptism and our baptism - all of us are able to enter into the redeeming mercy of Jesus. Baptism is open to all, and it obligates us to all people. As Episcopalians, we pledge at our baptisms to “seek and serve Christ in all persons” and to “respect the dignity of every human being”.

Following Jesus is a New Beginning for All People.

So in this Season of Epiphany, over the next month or so as we walk this journey together, I encourage you to write down that phrase. Carry it with you as you go. Pray with it and live it every day of your life in Christ.

Following Jesus is a New Beginning for All People.


No comments:

Post a Comment