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River of Tears

Date:1/7/18

Series: Epiphany

Category: 2018 Sermons

Passage: Mark 1:4-11

Speaker: Nicole Trotter

River of Tears

Mark 1:4-11

Yesterday we held a memorial service here for a charter member of this church, Joyce Murphy. It really hadn’t sunk in for me what means to have chartered a church. The level of commitment for those that made it happen is one that many of us, especially maybe those my age, have a hard time grasping.

It was a value system of a different time…but it’s one I believe we can reclaim…it may not look like it did in 1962, but as Lora shared last Sunday God is always doing a new thing…

and today, we are reminded of that as we recommit to how we can participate in what God is doing in our lives, in the church, and in the world, by remembering our baptism.

Joyce’s son had found an article that Joyce kept…and I built the homily around it…and as I was writing this morning's sermon, It struck me how fitting it is for today…

READ Article…

I think my favorite line of the article is this….You keep them because they're worth it because you're worth it….

That’s a mouthful and I’m not entirely sure what the writer meant, but here’s my best guess….that over time, what you value and who you value becomes a part of you…Whether it’s a spouse, a dear friend, a partner, a mother…they become are a part of you and you a part of them…until you can no longer really tell where one of you begins and the other ends…for better and for worse….perfectly imperfect…you keep them here because they’re now a part of who you are. More simply put, you become one.

The same is true for a life kept in christ….

We already know God as keeper….Psalm 121-God is your keeper…God keeps our going out and our coming in…

The priestly blessing, the oldest blessing the OT…May the Lord bless you and keep you….

This is the value God places on us…. the line between God and self-becomes so blurred we become one….God no longer just up there, but with us and within us….at the table and at the font…and each time we love one another.

And in today’s gospel…Jesus gets in the water with us…There’s  great scholarly debate about that, by the way…The old church didn’t like this passage…why would Jesus need to repent if he was the son of God…Jesus gets in the water with all the rest of us who can’t seem to live life perfectly…because I imagine, Jesus wouldn’t have it any other way….to be with us- is to get in the muddy water… God keeps us…but God does not keep us from living freely…which means inevitably we fall, and need, by the grace of God… to begin again…

And Jesus goes there…..goes there before us and with us…because through him, …we are given the ability to begin again.

You and I and every living soul on this earth are a child of God’s…and the Holy Presence of God lives inside of you….like a seal placed upon your head with water…you belong to something so much greater than yourself it’s impossible to make sense of….and that's perhaps the best answer for why we baptize babies…because there is no real cognitive understanding of what it means to belong to God…there is only a cognitive understanding of living a life in response to that claim, to that gift, …to that grace…

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There’s a lot of bad misconceptions about repentance and baptism…they live in our culture like an archetype…

Karoline Lewis tells a story about a 90-year-old parishioner who came up to her after a sermon on baptism…

emphasizing that baptism is God’s doing, not ours.

Hazel, the parishioner was 90 at the time. “Karoline,” she said, “is that really true?” “What?” she answered. Hazel responded, “That God baptizes you.” “Yes, it’s true. This is what we believe. Why?” Hazel then told me about her sister who was born several years before she was. Her sister was born very ill, in the home, and never left the house because she was so sick. We are talking at least 95 years ago. The family knew she would not live long, she lived about two months as it turned out, and was baptized by her grandmother somewhere in that two month period. When Hazel’s parents went to the pastor of the Lutheran church where they had been lifelong members to plan the funeral, the pastor refused to hold the funeral in the sanctuary because he had not baptized the baby. The funeral was held in the basement of the church.

Hazel then said to me, “Does this mean my sister is OK? Is she really OK?” “Yes,” I said. “Your sister is OK.”

Lewis writes….These are the pastoral results of practices for the sake of practices alone. Here was Hazel in front of me, 90 years old, weeping for the sister she never knew, crying tears of relief and grace.

Now maybe you can dismiss that story…this was 90 plus years ago,…but to give a more recent example…I have a good friend who’s an agnostic…She has two children…She’s not sure there's a God, practices no religion…but had her children baptized….When I asked her why she said…Just in case I’m wrong…

Like an insurance policy…just in case…there was a heaven, this would assure them some kind of place…in case they died.

That is not my understanding of Baptism, and I hope it’s not yours… In our reformed faith…God’s loves us first…. Nothing you can do will make that nay more true…you are already loved…perfectly imperfect as you are…getting into that river alongside Christ who didn’t need to repent for sin as much as to remind us that he's with us, one of us, in a world that participates corporately in sinful ways…Jesus gets into that muddy water…not to intervene…but to love us as a way to empower us to change the world by loving one another…

the world has already been changed by his birth….if only we would choose again to get into the water with him..…if only we would live our life day in and day out…as a time to begin again…….

This is the day after epiphany….meaning Manifestation or revelation… God makes himself known to us….The heavens are torn apart, and God’s voice comes down to us all….not just to Jesus…As children baptized into Christ that assurance, that revelation is made known to all of us…… each day….but we must look for it, and recommit to it.

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I have an advantage of living on the water…there’s, not a window in my house that doesn’t remind me of that….and I try to practice each morning…by drinking coffee to a sunrise…over the water…, I’m grateful for this…because I have a visual reminder of God’s claim on me…The sun rises over the water…and as it does…i’m reminded of a new day…one in which God claims me all over again…loves me all over again…like an epiphany…a manifestation each morning of God’s love…and I try and re-commit my life to God…and if I’m lucky that works for about an hour…

that’s our faith…a response to Gods love, to recommit. sometimes daily, sometimes hourly…to a life kept in Jesus Christ.

And not just for us personally, but for the world…for God so loved the world…

If only we could see our salvation and the world's salvation as one and the same…Baptismal waters carry elements of all who wade in them, all who have been cleansed in them, all who have been carried to them in hopes of salvation…it carries tears of joy and tears of sorrow…it carries the regrets of poor choices….personal choices and collective ones as a nation. We have never been perfect, and we’ve left a trail of tears in its wake…one the living waters of baptism can make right if only we choose to live a life in Christ and begin again…..by loving others….including others,….advocating for others…whatever that looks like….either through social justice movements, petitioning your congressman, participating in a REST dinner, or caring for the sick and lonely…Brooks out an article titled how would Jesus drive…He writes….Pope Francis in his New Year’s Eve homily, said that the people who have the most influence on society are actually the normal folks, through their normal, everyday gestures being kind in public places, attentive to the elderly. The pope called such people, in a beautiful phrase, “the artisans of the common good.”

Small deeds, he said, “express concretely love for the city … without giving speeches, without publicity, but with a style of practical civic education for daily life.”

The pope focused especially on driving, praising those people “who move in traffic with good sense and prudence.”…I’m pretty sure that article was written for me… anyone who has whizzed by me in their BMW knows personally how badly I need to hear that.

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In a few minutes, we will come to the table and share in the bread and body of Christ as the body of the christ….the baptismal font has been filled with water….It's not there to baptize you…but to recall what it means to be a beloved child of God….to be sealed by the holy spirit…to be united with all people of every gender, race nationality….to break down barriers…and to return to the beginning, a place by the water…

Some things in life are worth keeping…like a baptism…a seal upon you…God is keeping you….now you are being called again to keep God…

Feed at the table…touch the water…recall your baptism and feel God’s claim upon you, beloved child of God, as you, in turn, live a life in Jesus Christ…May God bless you and keep you always…

Amen.