This has been, to say the least, a very difficult week. COVID continues to run rampant in our country with daily cases, hospitalizations, and deaths as high or higher than they’ve ever been. We’re averaging 3500 deaths, the equivalent of a 9/11 attack or more per day now. Then Wednesday we witnessed armed insurrectionists attempt a violent coup to overturn the presidential election results. After months of being lied to about the election and then egged on to violent action by the president and his Congressional and media enablers, the rioters stormed the Capitol — many of them with weapons and plans to harm or even murder the Vice President and the Speaker of the House.
I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted, I’m angry, and I’m scared.
Given all that are we really going to talk about Baptism today?? Yes, actually. Because, as unlikely and farfetched as it sounds, I think baptism just might show us the way forward. Even when life seems to be at its worst, I think hope remains alive. In the midst of all the awful this week brought, the people of Georgia also became the first former Confederate state to elect a Black Senator. What is more, Senator-elect Rev. Dr. Warnock studied under no less a luminary than James Cone himself. Our Senate will soon include a person steeped in Black Liberation Theology. Hope persists, my friends. So, yeah, we’re gonna talk about baptism.
That’s how my sermon begin on Sunday.
For the majority of my 25 years serving as the de facto Associate Pastor (that’s been my role, though I’ve always had a different title), I have been asked to preach about once per month. It has never been a particular week (e.g. the second Sunday of the month), instead it has always been whichever week worked best based on the Lead Pastor’s calendar and mine. So there have been months I didn’t preach at all and months I preached two or three times. The dates picked a month (or two or three) in advance. Yet, somehow, over the years it has been my turn the week of some major events. (Confirmation bias, perhaps?) To name a few: The attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Barack Obama’s first election. The spate of LGBT teen suicides in the fall of 2010. The Tucson, AZ shooting that included Representative Gabrielle Giffords. The tenth Anniversary of Sept. 11 attacks. Michael Brown’s murder and the Black Lives Matter protests in Ferguson, MO. The Black Lives Matter summer. And now, the insurrectionist, terrorist coup attempt on the Capitol.
I’ve tried to meet the moment each time. Congregational response this week has been encouraging. Still, I often look back and think, “I should have said ____.” I hope you will let me know if I faithfully met the moment Sunday.
Inspiring me this week:
The Forgotten Creed: Christianity’s Original Struggle Against Bigotry, Slavery, and Sexism, by Stephen Patterson
Diana Butler Bass’ substack, “The Cottage,” which led me to Patterson’s book.
Three separate but interrelated texts: The predictable gospel narrative from Mark about Jesus’ baptism, an odd rivalry story from the Acts of the Apostles, and a short bit from Galatians that very well could be the oldest portion of the New Testament.
Perhaps the first creed, it says nothing a creed should say. It is not about God. Nor is it about the nature of Jesus Christ or how he saves us from our sins. It is about us. And perhaps that is why few have ever really believed it. It is easier, it turns out, to believe in a higher power, a God, a savior, who will save us from our sins of hatred and violence than to think, to believe, that human beings are capable fo the miracle of solidarity…Real oneness comes only when we realize we are all deeply connected and stand with one another in solidarityStephen Patterson, The Forgotten Creed
Per usual, here’s the audio-only version followed by the video. Sermon begins at 49:44.
This creed helps us to see clearly that:
Xenophobia is incompatible with Christianity.
Sexism and misogyny is incompatible with Christianity.
QAnon is incompatible with Christianity.
White supremacy is incompatible with Christianity.
Racism is incompatible with Christianity.