Sunday, January 9, 2011

January 9, 2011: Baptism of our Lord

How did people recognize Jesus? Was it his long hair and sandals that gave him away? Maybe it was the halo on his head?

No....what made people recognize Jesus was what He DID! The prophets had taught for centrues about what the Messiah would do – and today’s first reading is one of the best ones. Isaiah was telling Israel how to recognize God’s chosen servant–He will bring justice to the world, show compassion, give sight to the blind, free the prisoners… So when Jesus DID come, the Israelites should have been able to look at what he DID and say with absolute confidence – that’s HIM – obviously, He’s the one!

But this prophecy also applies to someone else? Can you think who that might be? Like I said, Isaiah is describing how we can recognize God’s chosen servant. Hopefully,… that’s you and me. When you and I were baptized, WE were chosen by God and given a mission just like Jesus’ mission. WE are to go out to bring justice, show compassion, give sight to the blind, free the prisoners, and shine the light on those in darkness! THAT is how the rest of the world recognizes disciples of Jesus – when WE take an ACTIVE role in helping others.

In that same reading is another line which might be hard to understand…, “A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench”. Now this has been argued to mean many things… But usually this understood to point out the compassion of Jesus. In other words, Jesus won’t condemn anyone who has even the slightest amount of Faith. Any smidgeon of faith and shred of hope is allowed to live, because there is always a chance to fan it into a flame. As God’s chosen servant, Jesus is the source of Hope for those who have no earthly reason to be hopeful.

One of the best examples where I see that is Haiti. Somehow they continue to cling to their shred of hope because of their faith in God.

It’s been bad in Haiti for a very long time…. But it seems in many ways, things keep going from bad to worse. Somehow they continue to hope. One year ago this week was the devastating earthquake that killed almost a quarter million people (or more) and destroyed much of what shabby infrastructure they had. Somehow they continue to hope. One of our parishioners, Gary Boice, just got back from Haiti yesterday… and while he could see that progress has been made, people still live in tents everywhere and water, sewage, and hygiene are major problems. That has contributed to the Cholera epidemic which is currently gripping the whole country. It seems there is NO reason for them to go on hoping…they keep getting hit by one disaster after another….their wick is barely smoldering…yet they go on hoping.

You’ll notice in the bulletin, we got a letter from Fr. Brunot last week. He’s the pastor at Dupity – the parish we have been helping. 20 people have died in that one, small village, and many more are sick in the clinic. He has asked specifically for help in getting them chlorox and soap as the basic means for preventing further spread of the disease. If you’d like to help with that, we’ve put boxes at each door for donations. We won’t have a second collection, so you’ll have to remember on your way out.

Just over a year ago, hope abounded in Dupity as they finally got running water for the first time – a project that has almost definitely saved some lives. However, only a small portion of the population of Dupity lives in town. Those outside the town still use un-purified stream water. Gary and possibly some others will be going back to Dupity later this month to see how else we can help. Everything moves slowly in Haiti, and it’s frustrating for US to keep trying to jump through hoops to get anything done….yet…if THEY can continue to hope in spite of everything they’re going through, then surely we can learn from them and not give up either. Their hope is like the smoldering wick – and we cannot extinguish it – instead we should do everything we can to fan it into a flame. We have to act, because that’s what Jesus would do.

Jesus’ baptism today was a turning point for him. Today was the start of his public ministry. Through this symbolic act, Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit and was catapulted into action. What did he do? Peter told us in the 2nd reading – “He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil”. Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecies…but so are we! Just like Jesus, our baptism should catapult us into action.

As a way of connecting our own baptism with Jesus’…In just a minute, we’re going to stand and renew our own baptismal promises. I’m going to read them slowly…because we need to think about what each phrase means…These are the same truths we pray in the creed every week…they’re so familiar that we nonchalantly rush through them and SAY we believe it without considering what it means. DO you believe in God? Really? DO you believe in Jesus? Really? If we really believe it, our lives CANNOT be business as usual. We are chosen by God. We are his chosen servant. The only way the world will recognize Christ in the world is if WE show compassion, WE bring justice, WE give sight to the blind, WE free the prisoners, and where there is a smoldering wick of hope, we will fan it into a flame. Please stand.

V. Do you reject Satan? R. I do.

V. And all his works? R. I do.

V. And all his empty promises? R. I do.

V. Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth? R. I do.

V. Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father? R. I do.

V.Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting? R. I do.

V. God, the all-powerful Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has given us a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and forgiven all our sins. May he also keep us faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ for ever and ever.

R. Amen.

Normally, at this point of the ceremony, we would sprinkle with holy water, but instead I want you everybody to take an active part in completing the ceremony yourself. As we leave church today, dip your hand in the holy water and recommit yourself to live as God’s servant. As you do, you can just imagine the Father saying, “This is my beloved servant in whom I am well pleased”.

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