Here is the worship service for the Baptism of Our Lord Sunday, which goes live at 10am on January 10, 2021!
The worship bulletin can be found here.
We will be having all the regular elements of the service that we usually do, so you can have the bowl of water for Thanksgiving for Baptism, something small to eat and drink for communion, and a lit candle. As always, this is optional but meant to enhance your worship experience.
Here is the video!
O God, send your Spirit upon us, that whatever veil might be hiding you from us be lifted and we see your glory and hear your voice, gently calling us your beloved children, along with Jesus Christ, through whom we pray. Amen.
So this past Wednesday, I sat down at my desk with every intention to write this very sermon. I had in mind already a way to start this sermon with a Star Wars reference and everything. But as I sat down, I made the mistake of checking my phone first and reading the news. And I saw it. The “protest” (which looked more like a riot to me) happening on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, the culmination of all the stuff that has been happening in American politics in the past 4 years, and this (again, to me) blatant insult in the face of democracy.
And whether or not you agree with this protest or not, it is hard to justify breaking into the congress building, occupying the offices of elected officials, and making a mockery of the systems of law and order that have governed the United States for so many years. I don’t even like it when my kids sit in my office chair, because they spin around it like crazy and ruin all the angles that I spent so much time perfecting for maximum comfort and efficiency. I can’t even imagine seeing images online of strangers rifling through my papers and files in the name of protest. It’s hard to justify that kind of action. Actually, I don’t think it can be justified at all. Impossible, really.
Conspiracy theories aside, I have never been a fan of protests, peaceful or not, but especially violent ones. I didn’t like this so-called protest. I didn’t like how the Black Lives Matter movement escalated into violence. I didn’t like how Vancouverites rioted the Canucks losing the Stanley Cup not once, but twice in my lifetime. Let me make this very clear though, I’m not saying that people don’t have a right to protest, that has been solidified in the American Constitution (as well as the Canadian Charter of Rights for that matter). But when people get violent, I just don’t see what that accomplishes. No one, when attacked, just says, “ah, I see your point. Let me change my ways now”. So to me, whoever instigates the violence is just wrong and misguided. Whoever encourages the violence is wrong and manipulative. And whoever condones the violence is wrong and in my eyes, evil.
It’s this kind of turmoil that makes the world seem so dark to me. It’s this kind of nonsensical violence that makes the world seem so lost. It’s this kind of evil that makes me feel like the world just isn’t deserving of a Saviour.
Because this violence isn’t helping anything. This finger-pointing, gas-lighting, and conspiracy theories aren’t doing anything but split us apart. All these Facebook and Twitter educations are just making us all dumber on the whole. So while this kind of evil makes me feel like the world doesn’t deserve a Saviour, I cry out to God for mercy, I cry out to God for healing, I cry out to God to save us from ourselves.
Today is Baptism of Our Lord Sunday, a day when we get a very familiar story of Jesus being baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptizer. And as I’ve mentioned before, the Gospel according to Mark wastes no time with frivolous words and details, but rather just gets right to the action and the point of the story. No word is wasted. And the words that struck me this time around are “torn apart,” because doesn’t it feel like the world has just been torn apart?
This part of the gospel happens right in the beginning, right after that bit that we got way back on the Second Sunday in Advent. Remember that? How it starts with, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ”? Well, this is the Star Wars reference I was talking about earlier but got sidetracked with Wednesday’s news. You know how every Star Wars movie starts? “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” Then, for the main movies at least, comes this iconic opening crawl of text that no one has time to read or if they do, they don’t remember it or even understand it. This crawl explains the backdrop of the movie you’re about to either really enjoy if it’s the original trilogy or suffer through if it is anything else. But every movie, regardless of how the last one ends, starts with some kind of turmoil. Some problem has arisen and it needs to be solved. It is always somehow a dark time for our heroes, and somehow the Force has to play some kind of role to save them.
And this time around, I totally see that in this portion of Mark. Not saying that Jesus is Luke Skywalker or John is Obi-Wan Kenobi or anything, but Mark is written in a time of turmoil. A time of darkness. A time in which good news is not just welcome, but desperately needed. Cried out for, even.
Those just happen to be the times that I feel like we’re in now, solidified by the events of this past week. We are still in the middle of this pandemic. We are still in the middle of this political unrest. We are still in the middle of what seems like perpetual darkness that no amount of Zoom calls and meetings can resolve, no amount of mask wearing and spouting out internet stats can quell, and no amount of preaching, sound or not, can brighten it up.
But in the midst of it, we get the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ. And the first act of this Jesus as told by Mark isn’t a birth, it isn’t getting lost as a child in the temple, it isn’t even being with God while being God, but it is getting baptised. A full welcome and acceptance into God’s family and kingdom. A declaration of who Jesus is and made to be. A tearing apart of the heavens so that God can come in.
See in this time of turmoil, this time of darkness, this time of evil in the world, God tears the heavens apart and enters into our lives. God has done this. God is doing this. And God will always do this for as long as we are a people in need of God’s mercy and salvation.
The problem is, we haven’t been listening. Instead, we stuck to our political agendas, our conspiracy rhetoric, and our insatiable need to be right and on the winning side and effectively disallowed our ears to hear God to speaking to our communities, to our lives, to us. We’ve disallowed our eyes to see God present in and around us. We’ve disallowed our hearts to feel God tearing open the veil that we have put over us that covers God’s face from us, and we’ve filled ourselves with anger, hatred, and fear.
And I’m sick of it.
This is a difficult time we’re living in for many different reasons. This is a tumultuous time because of the polarizing opinions of those in power and influence. This is a dark time because we have very violently forced God, morality, and basic human decency out of our lives in favour of bigotry, pride, and idolatry disguised as nationality, loyalty, and patriotism.
See, just as God wasn’t Rome as much as the Romans wanted the Jews to believe, nor was God Israel as much as the Jews wanted the Romans to believe, nor is God any nation of this earth, be it the United States, Canada, the Vatican, or whatever else people might equate with God. God never has been and never will be a nation. Rather, God is the love between brother and sister, stranger and friend, ally or enemy. God is the compassion found in community and right relationship. God is the peace and joy that we are given in seeing all people, including ourselves and even those whom don’t like very much, as God’s very own beloved children, full of fault and error but yet full of redemption and forgiveness; full of imperfection and poor decisions but yet full of grace and mercy; full of human nature and sin but yet full of God’s unending love and worth.
This isn’t easy to see especially in our enemies, but this is God tearing open the expanse that is keeping us in the darkness, opening our eyes to see the light, and physically holding us tight within all of creation, our communities, and the waters of baptism and declaring to us all that we are God’s children, dearly beloved, with whom God is well pleased.
Not because of who we are, mind you, nor because of what we do or what kind of power we amass for ourselves, but because God has made us, formed us, and deemed us as worthy. See this is a gift, not something that we earn or call dibs on or elected to, but given freely because God. Is. Love.
God shows us this through the wonders of creation. God reminds us of this through the working of God’s Spirit. God reveals this to us through the baptism of Jesus that welcomes us all into this eternal family and kingdom.
In this season we’re moving into after the Epiphany, may we continue to see God on the other side of the veil that has been torn apart and can no longer separate us from God, from each other, and the Spirit working in us all. Thanks be to God. Amen.