Scripture/Sermon of the Day     January 10, 2021

Acts 19:1-7      Common English Bible

While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul took a route through the interior and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples. 2 He asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you came to believe?”
They replied, “We’ve not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
3 Then he said, “What baptism did you receive, then?”
They answered, “John’s baptism.”
4 Paul explained, “John baptized with a baptism by which people showed they were changing their hearts and lives. It was a baptism that told people about the one who was coming after him. This is the one in whom they were to believe. This one is Jesus.” 5 After they listened to Paul, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in other languages and prophesying. 7 Altogether, there were about twelve people.

Mark 1:4-11     Common English Bible

4 John the Baptist was in the wilderness calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins. 5 Everyone in Judea and all the people of Jerusalem went out to the Jordan River and were being baptized by John as they confessed their sins. 6 John wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He announced, “One stronger than I am is coming after me. I’m not even worthy to bend over and loosen the strap of his sandals. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
9 About that time, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. 10 While he was coming up out of the water, Jesus saw heaven splitting open and the Spirit, like a dove, coming down on him. 11 And there was a voice from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.”

Reflection/Sermon:

I.      One of the headlines I saw yesterday in the news was:   “Extremists intensify calls for violence ahead of Inauguration Day.”  And I thought to myself, “There’s nothing to raise the level of interest — like violence.  Violence can make a dull rally something that people want to watch.   Like that video that was repeated of the man bashing in the window at the Capital and then people climbing through.
        From the time the riot started until after dark — I couldn’t stop watching the TV — it was unbelievable.  I kept yelling out to Janet, wherever she was in the house — “But the mayor of Washington D.C. — Muriel Bowser — said the day before she asked for the National Guard — where are they?  I don’t see anyone!  Where are the police?”  I think I was getting angry with Janet because the National Guard wasn’t there.  I kept yelling at her, “Where is the National Guard?!!!” — Like it was her fault they weren’t there.  It all seemed unbelievable.  I was worried that senators and representatives and the vice president were going to be hurt or killed. I’m surprised there wasn’t gunfire? — because I think a lot of people had guns.  We are lucky it wasn’t worse than it was.  But my concern right now is that this insurrection isn’t over.  Two dates that have come up on social media with more predictions of violence are January 17 and 20th, the 20th being the date of the inauguration.  What’s January 17th?  I’m nervous about the inauguration.

II.     Now compared to this civil war happening in our country  — how can the quiet, boring baptism of Jesus compete with that?  Our reading today is the baptism of Jesus — and I can’t see you, but I can feel it — I can feel some of you yawning out there.  Because after all this news of insurrection, riots, violence, impeachment, 25th amendment — how can a man from Nazareth who walks into the Jordan River and another man pours water over him — how can that compete?  We’ve become so addicted to the sensational and extreme that it’s hard to focus on something quiet and serene, even if it is Jesus being baptized.  Because there are no weapons in that scene.  No flags waving.  No one yelling “Save the Steal” or “Give Me My Country Back.”  No one yelling anything.  Except this heavily bearded man wearing animal skins saying, “You must change your hearts and lives.”  Otherwise it’s just another hot, sunny day in the wilderness.  Even the Jordan River is quiet — it’s a small river, like a stream in places. 
         “Repent,” says John. “Change your hearts and lives.”  Who wants to do that work?  It’s much easier to storm the Capital than to try to take down the barriers to God around our own souls.  It’s easy to storm the Capital and break windows and yell things like “Make America Great Again!”  But who wants to sit down quietly, and pray so no one else can hear, “Dear God, may you be great in me.”
        But that’s what baptism is — it’s a quiet insurrection.

III.    Today we celebrate the quiet insurrection where Jesus, at our invitation, breaks down the barriers around our hearts that separate us from God.  It is a peaceful riot that changes us, by the power of the Holy Spirit, so we are free to share the love of Jesus Christ wherever God sends us.