Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sermon for Year A Epiphany 1

Matthew 3: 13-17
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.

Travel Lightly

You know how it is.
You are packed and ready to go.
You hurry to the airport.
Wind your way through the security maze.
Find your way to your gate.
And then...
you wait.
You wait.
No plane.
No plane.
No plane.

The gate sits empty.
Delays are posted.
Then re=posted.
It seems the plane coming to Charlotte can’t leave Iowa
because of the weather there.

And then finally they bring out the teeny tiniest plane
you have ever seen and you board and take off
and breathe a deep sigh
that you got a seat.
And off you go.
You’re on your way!
Mid-way in the flight,
you see the flight attendant.
There is only one.
Did I mention how small this plane is?
She pulls out her little beverage cart and loads it up
and starts down the aisle.
You are in Seat 5C--very near the front of the plane--
 so you know you will soon be served.
You are so thirsty.

She serves one person in the first row
and then the phone rings
and the flight attendant returns to answer the phone.
It has to be the captain in the cockpit calling, right?
She listens.
She doesn’t say a word but slams down the phone receiver.
She goes to the beverage cart and jerks it back into the galley kitchen.
She unloads all that she had just loaded
and she sits down in her chair
(which--did I mention how small this plane is--
is right in the center so you can see ever twitch of her face).

She picks up the phone,
presses a button,
and broadcasts,
“You will NOT be getting any beverage service.”

Now I am braced for the announcement that will come--
it is no doubt going to be about the severe turbulence
we are going to experience---
but that is NOT what is revealed.

What she says is this,
“ You are not getting any beverages
and that is the best news you are going to hear tonight.”
“Because we are returning to the airport
where we just left.
We can’t land.
There is a problem.”

(What she said next, cannot be repeated in church!!)

And back we go.
Once more to begin again.
The next day.

Journeys do not always turn out as we expect.
The magi did not find a royal king in Jerusalem.
They had to travel on to Bethlehem
and there they found find a baby-- in a manger.

John the Baptizer did not expect to baptize Jesus.
He thought his journey was to be baptized BY Jesus.
Not what John expected.

God is full of surprises.
Some we like; some, not so much.

When Jesus comes up out of the water
after his baptism,
the heavens light up
and he is revealed as God’s beloved son.
I imagine that John and perhaps even Jesus,
thought this revelation was such good news--
we would agree.
But they may have also thought that this meant
that Jesus' life was going to be smooth sailing.
Not true.

The season of Epiphany is about journeys and things being revealed.
Often unexpected revelations.

We are very good at packing a suitcase full of our expectations.
We lug that suitcase around with us everywhere we go.
It is filled to the brim, to the bulging zipper
with our expectations, our worries, our plans,
our burdens.

But what God often does is pick that suitcase up
and toss that suitcase far, far away from us.
What God does
is surprise us and tell us we have packed all wrong for the journey.

What God tells us really
is that we didn’t need to pack a single thing.
God calls us to leave our expectations behind
and just be present.
Be present to the moment that is before us.
Trust in God.
Trust in God's goodness.

Tom and I took what we thought would be just a short little 3 day trip
but it turned in to 5.
At first we couldn’t get there and then we wondered if we would get home.

On New Year's Day,
the day when many of us make our yearly resolutions--
(My favorite resolution was made by our 3 year old granddaughter Penelope--
"I am going to eat more cake in 2014!")--
but for my intention for 2014
I typed into the NOTES app on my iPhone--
That is my intention, my resolution for this year--
to make myself more mindful
that God is here
no matter what the situation or circumstance.

Because I know I need to be reminded of that constantly.
God is here.

One of the reasons I love baptisms is because it is so obvious
that God is here.
God is here in the water
and in the words
and in the oil that marks the cross on our forehead.
You are marked as Christ’s own forever.

I sat in the airport waiting 
and looked around and thought,
Really? God is here?!!??
Yes, God is here.
God is here in all these weary travelers.
God is here in that baby who has obviously just learned to walk
and is having the time of her life toddling about this crowded terminal.
God is here in the couple just back from a blissful cruise in the Bahamas--
only to discover they can't fly in to snowy Boston.
They have been trying to get home for two days!
But they are still smiling and laughing.
God is here in the waiting.
God is here telling me I need to travel more lightly,
hold everything more lightly,
more gently, more kindly.

There is that wonderful baptism scene in the film
where the three escaped convicts hear singing
and watch as people dressed all in white move through the woods,
down to the river
to be baptized.

The convicts follow
and then two of them rush into the water.
When one of them emerges he loudly exclaims
that he has been washed of all his sins.
“Even when I stole that pig” he shouts!

“Hey! You said you were innocent of that!” says his friend.
“I lied!” he says.”But that’s been washed away too!!”

When we let go of our lies and our sins
and our expectations and our plans,
we are free.
We are free to see clearly
how much God loves us.
Each one of us.
No exceptions.

Baptism helps us remember who we are.
Who we really are.
Without our false selves, our pretenses,
our past history, our future plans.
Just simply who we really are.
How wonderful we really are in God’s eyes.

Just as at his baptism,
Jesus was marked as God’s beloved forever.

Baptism reveals us, too, as God’s beloved children.
We are marked as Christ’s own FOREVER.

It is no accident that our baptismal font
is placed just inside the doors into the church.
The font is the very first thing you see
when you enter the church.

There it is.
The font is there at the entrance
 to say WELCOME, children of God.
The font is there to say REMEMBER your baptism.
The font is there to say
dip your fingers into my holy water
and trace the sign of the cross
that was marked on your forehead
on the day of your baptism.
The font is there to say,
What? You haven't been baptized?
Oh it is never too later.
Come on in. The water is great!

The font is there to also say LISTEN.
Listen and you too will hear
You are my beloved
with whom I am well pleased.

That’s right.
And me.
All of us.
Every single one of us.

We are God's beloved
with whom God is well pleased.

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