The Baptism of our Lord
This past week, Emma Green wrote a piece in The Atlantic titled A Christian Insurrection. It was about a small group of Christians who, for weeks leading up to the horrific insurrection on our democracy, had been gathering to march around the US Capitol building – fasting and praying for election integrity.
These events were part of the Jericho March; named after the biblical story where Joshua marched around Jericho blowing horns until the walls came down.
These self-professed Christians believed the noise they were making was doing God’s work. But last Wednesday the world saw whose bidding they were really doing.
On the Mall nearby, Green reported hearing a man yell “Shout if you love Jesus!” And the crowd cheered. Then the same man yelled again, “Shout if you love Trump!” The crowd cheered louder.
Even after a police officer died defending the capitol from attack, many continue to believe the coup attempt was holy and justified. I have a severe problem with this.
The Jesus I know from the gospels would not condone such behavior. The Jesus I know would have never weaponized people to wage a violent insurrection.
The Jesus from the gospels did not fight even when he was being arrested or unjustly crucified.
The Jesus I love said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” For that, God blessed him with a name above all others.
Read Mark 1:1-11
There are two things are worth noting here at the very beginning of Mark’s gospel. First, the Holy Spirit of God is “a dove that descended from heaven.” And second, a voice from heaven declared, “You are my beloved. With you I am pleased.”
After the September 11th terrorist attacks on our country, then President George Walker Bush famously said to the world, “You’re either with us, or against us.” Although this was tough, hawkish language meant to garner support from our allies, this “us versus them” mentality has set the stage for the bitterly divisive place we’re in today.
Now Mark begins his gospel identifying Jesus – not with a war hawk, but with a dove, the symbol of peace. God’s shalom. This instantly sets Jesus apart from other human rulers whose reigns depend on violence and bloodshed to secure more power, not peace. The author will spend the rest of his gospel revealing what the Spirit of God’s peace means to us today.
The Holy Spirit descended like a dove. A voice from heaven declared, “You are my beloved. With you I am pleased.”
watch the message here.
If Wednesday’s coup attempt taught us anything, it should be this: Thirst for power corrupts us. But a hunger for peace unites us. We need to stop dividing ourselves over our petty differences and be united by our commonality. As our great advancements in science have proven, all humans are 99.9% identical. This leaves .01% for all the tiny little differences – like thumb prints and taste in music.
Paul Schoenfeld noticed, “Despite the vastness of our similarities and the breadth of our mutual desires and needs, it is easy to focus on our differences—in beliefs, life experience, aspirations, habits or personality. Today, there is so much emphasis on how we diverge. Whether they be political views, religious practices, or philosophy of life. These distinctions can have a way of creating the false view that there is an “us and them” that is everywhere. It can cause us to forget that we are one species.”
The Jesus I know from the gospels never took a “me versus them” approach. It was always “me and them.” You see, Jesus was inclusive. He loved and welcomed all – including those who eventually killed him.
If science is correct, that there’s merely .01% difference between you and me, that tells me we are also created like Jesus, who at his baptism The Holy Spirit descended like a dove. And a voice declared, “You are my beloved. With you I am pleased.”
In seminary, I did a class project to get people to see Jesus in a new light. Using my advertising skills, I created a series of billboards designed to look like handwritten notes from Jesus. They said things like “Spiritual but not religious? I understand completely.” Or “Like giving blood for a good cause? Me too.” Each note was signed “Love Jesus.” And on each the tagline read, “You might have more in common with Jesus than you think.”
Let’s think about our commonality. Jesus was birthed by a mother, and he relied on her to be fed, changed, and cared for. He had siblings who bothered him, and at least one weird relative named John the Baptist. He laughed, he cried, and he probably cussed when he stubbed his toe or spilled hot coffee on himself.
We can debate the divinity of Jesus, but he was undisputedly fully human. Along the Jordan River, he was claimed and named by God. “You are my beloved. “With you I am pleased.”
What does this say about who we are as humans? “These words revealed the true identity of Jesus as the beloved. Jesus truly heard that voice, and all of his thoughts, words, and actions came forth from his deep knowledge that he was infinitely loved by God” (Nouwen).
Despite the rejection, jealousy and hatred Jesus faced, he continued to show love to all people no matter what tribe they were from or what little faith they had. Jesus was deeply inclusive. He welcomed all people to come and follow his way back to God’s righteousness. The way he lived his life “from that inner place of love,” teaches us how to be human – and to be claimed and named by God.
Jesus set the bar by which we are all called to live – especially those baptized in his name. A bar that opposes violence, bigotry and hatred. A bar that turns the other cheek and sets aside one’s personal needs to care for others first.
His way is the way of God’s love and righteousness. He is a living example of God’s peace and shalom. Thus, Jesus is the One in whom God is well pleased. He is the One inviting all of us to join him - anywhere and everywhere - to uphold and promote the Kingdom of God, not the fiefdom of some ungodly, power hungry person.
But here’s the thing when we are divided into our camps, with hearts are hardened by anger and rage, this can be difficult to understand, making it nearly impossible to follow Jesus faithfully. To claim exclusive rights on Jesus as Richard Rohr points out, “might make it easier to worship him, but it makes it that much harder to imitate him.”
Today, as you leave here to watch sports or engage with others on Facebook, I want you to remember this: We’re all made God’s image. Even those jerks you don’t like or the idiots who don’t like you. This is where claiming the name Christian becomes difficult, but not impossible, to do.
For the last decade I have been seriously working on my ability to see Christ in the face of others. As I’ve stated on my blog, it’s my daily struggle to find the Divine in our midst. What I’ve learned along the way is, the more I try to focus on our commonality rather than our differences the easier it is to see the presence of God all around me. And we all have something in common, if only it’s the divine love that God has etched on every heart. I think Jesus was able to love, even the unlovable, because he understood this.
He knew we are all created in God’s image, which means we all house God’s Spirit of peace within us. This is how Jesus approached all people. You might know that Buddhist often bow to one another, not out of respect for the person but to show respect for the divine within that person. Take a moment to imagine what our world could be like if we allowed God’s love in us to bow in respect to the love of God in others like Jesus did.
The Spirit descended like a dove. A voice from heaven declared, “You are my beloved. With you I am pleased.”
As Jesus’ life will reveal, we won’t get along with everyone. We won’t always like people’s post or agree on the way some people do things. But in order to stake our claim on Christ’s name, we have to continue his mission of peace and receive one another in love because we all are God’s beloved children.
So, I’ll leave you with this to ask yourself: Am I living in a way that pleases God? Am I living into my baptism? Walking as Jesus walked? Loving as he loved? Am I caring for the least of these my brothers and sisters?
God’s dramatic acknowledgment of Jesus makes it clear that through his words and deeds we’re encountering God’s intensions for all people. And those intensions, according to the prophet Micah, are to see that justice and fairness is done for your neighbor, to be merciful and compassionate, loyal in your love, and to get off your high horse and humbly walk with your God. (Micah 6:8)
The words God spoke to Jesus in the wild rapids of the Jordan River are words spoken to us all.
To paraphrase Henri Nouwen, “Once we accept the truth that we are God’s beloved children, loved unconditionally, then we can go into the world to speak and to act as Jesus did.”
But when we hold on to rage and anger, and participate in divisiveness like we witnessed on Wednesday, it makes it harder for God’s love to penetrate our hearts. Harder, but not impossible.
Like heaven at baptism, God is able to break through our hearts and gives us peace.
If we can truly believe that God is speaking to us, calling us the beloved, then we can begin to see that it’s not our subtle .01% differences that make us standout. It's how we live out our similarities as one people in the name of the One who unites us in perfect peace and calls us all home to be with him.
Let us pray: Loving God, you have made yourself known in Christ Jesus, and by his words and deeds we have learned what it means to be your beloved. Empower us with your Holy Spirit, to be peacemakers, for the glory of your name in which we have been named your beloved. Amen.
Green, Emma. A Christian Insurrection. The Atlantic. January 8, 2021 (accessed on January 8, 2021).
Nouwen, Henri. Anchor Yourself In God’s Love from You Are the Beloved. (New York: Convergent, 2017)
Rohr, Richard. Yes, And…Daily Meditations. (Cincinnati: Franciscan, 1997) p. 249
Rohr, Richard. The Universal Christ. (New York: Convergent, 2018) p. 23.
Schoenfeld, Paul. We are more similar than different. everettclinic.com on July 26, 2017 (accessed on January 8, 2021).
Leave a Reply.
has been blogging under the name: Jesus not Jesús: Looking for Christ in the face of strangers. You can read his posts and browse his archives by clicking here.
Worship with us live on Facebook
Sunday at 11:00 a.m.