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Sermon for the Festival of the Baptism of Christ – Canon Victoria Johnson, Precentor

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Sermon for the Festival of the Baptism of Christ

Sunday 10th January, 2020

Canon Victoria Johnson, Precentor

Readings: Acts 19:1-7, Mark 1:4-11

“Take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.”

This quote comes from Karl Barth, the 20th Century German Theologian. It is often used as a kind of framework for the preacher, or the theologian or for the practising Christian. I suppose it’s another way of saying what Jesus said to his disciples: You are to be in the world but not of the world. Christian’s neither shy away from the realities of life which surround us, nor lose hope in the coming of the Kingdom of God. Holding a newspaper in one hand, and our Gospel reading in the other- how might we respond to the events in our world over the past week? Well, where to start?

We find ourselves in the season of Epiphany, a season of revelations as we come to know who Christ is. We come to know Jesus as the Lord of Life, the Beloved Son of God. Jesus enters fully into our humanity, is baptised and as he emerges from the waters, the heavens are torn apart, the Spirit descends like a dove and God says ‘You are my Son, the beloved, and with you I am well pleased’.

He with no sin, takes on the sin of us all. There is in this moment an alignment of reality, promise and hope, and there is in this moment a flash of subversion as heaven and earth are once again knit together as Jesus emerges from the waters of baptism. In this moment, we, as fellow human beings are assured that we are also beloved of God. Maybe that is where we need to start this week. Knowing that we are beloved of God.

Maybe if we understand that we are loved by God, we can also understand that all are loved by God. Maybe understanding that could create the world for which we long. A world of peace, and harmony, a world of compassion and mercy, a world of justice, faith, hope and love. A world not immune to challenge and change and sorrow, but a world able to find a way through to rebuild, and recreate and be reborn.

Baptism for us, is usually less dramatic than the account of a baptism we have read this morning, but the dribbling of water on the head of baby, or the immersion of an adult in a pool or river, is not something that is done and forgotten.

It calls us to daily renewal, daily hope and helps us see that a new world is possible. Through our baptism we are called to work towards the world God wants for his beloved Children, the new creation begun in Christ. It’s clear that what we have seen and read in our newspapers this past week, what we have watched on TV news both here and from across our world is not fully aligned with this Christian hope. We have witnessed hatred, division, violence, lies upon lies of tongue and pen, collusion and ignorance, sorrow, suffering, confusion and despair.

Take your bible and your newspaper and read both.

Perhaps holding up the bible in one hand isn’t enough, even for a president of the United States.

Perhaps we need to open our hearts to the word made flesh who makes all things new and offers us hope from despair and life from death.  Perhaps we have to live out what we believe, and put our faith, not in presidents, not in power, nor in the easy speeches which comfort cruel men, we put our faith in the one who really loves us, who lived for us, who died for us, who rose again for us, and taught us that the last shall be first, and the first shall be last. The one who taught us how to love, how to live.

If we don’t believe that the water of baptism can change the world, and rend the heavens and create something new, then it never will. For through Christ, the drops of water poured upon our heads can gather until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

We pray for our world at this time, in all of its chaos and confusion, and we pray that through Christ we may be part of the change that is needed to make all things new. As we recall the baptism of Christ, we remember our own baptism-we pray that today and tomorrow, in our world right now, we may be born again and live into that calling as beloved children of God, and help build that new creation for which we all desperately long.

In the name of the one and only living God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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