Notes that will be used as a part of the sermon on this day.
Greg Warren, stand-up comic from St. Louis, Missouri tells this story about his childhood:
“Everything in my parents’ house is broken. We play chess, and there are six pieces missing. So, we replace them with pieces from my mom’s nativity scene. We’re playing chess with the Virgin Mary and goats and wise men, and my Uncle Earl cheats. It’s like: ‘Uncle Earl, that’s a pawn. You’re not supposed to move him backwards.’ ‘That’s the Son of God, boy! You move him wherever the heck he wants to go.'”
Philip Yancey tells the story of a friend of his who went swimming in a large lake at dusk.
“As he was paddling at a leisurely pace about a hundred yards offshore, a freak evening fog rolled in across the water.
Suddenly he could see nothing: no horizon, no landmarks, no objects or lights on shore.
Because the fog diffused all light, he could not even make out the direction of the setting sun.”
Yancey then tells how his friend splashed about in absolute panic.
“He would start off in one direction, lose confidence, and turn 90 degrees to the right.
Or left – it made no difference which way he turned.
He could feel his heart racing uncontrollably.
He would stop and float, trying to conserve energy and force himself to breathe slower. Then he would blindly strike out again.
At last he heard a faint voice calling from shore. He pointed his body to the sounds and followed them to safety.”
Bruce G. Epperly is Pastor and Teacher at South Congregational Church, Centerville, MA.
Jesus comes to the Jordan to be baptized.
Although John is not eager to baptize one whom he believes to have a unique relationship with God,
Jesus insists on being baptized to “fulfill all righteousness,” to be in solidarity with all who struggle to experience God in transformative ways.
As Jesus rises from the Jordan, a dove descends and God’s voice is heard, “this is my beloved with whom I am well pleased.”
While some believe God’s voice defines Jesus as other than us, a supernatural interruption in the ambiguous human history,
I believe that Jesus’ baptism and God’s affirmation is, in fact, an affirmation that Jesus is part of our story and that we share in God’s love just as Jesus did.
In our own unique way, we embody holiness.
I believe that God says the same word of grace to everyone who comes for baptism, and to every child who is born.
We are God’s beloved children, whether or not we are aware of it or even if we believe that we have fallen from grace.
Acts 10 describes the universality of grace. God’s grace embraces Jew and Gentile alike.
Cornelius’ household receives God’s grace just as orthodox followers of Judaism.
No one is excluded from divine mercy or love.
These words are especially powerful these days: our nation seems to be polarized, racially, ethnically, politically, culturally, and sexually.
Many persons assume that God’s grace is absent from their opponents whose viewpoints are bereft of truth and good will.
Acts 10 is not just about Cornelius and Peter, but the unbroken interdependence and unity of humankind.
We are all standing in the need of grace, finite, broken, dependent, and mortal.
And God’s grace is offered to all of us regardless of whether we’ve been baptized, our political viewpoint, ethnicity, or nation of origin.
All are welcome to share in the waters of grace.
The prophet Isaiah speaks of a righteous spiritual leader whose life will change the world.
Leadership, biblically speaking,
is about healing, hospitality, and justice.
Leadership involves the use of power,
but power is defined by love
rather than domination or supremacy, whether this leadership is religious or political.
Leadership is about aspiration and unity, rather than division and domination.
The Longest Journey: Notes on Christian Maturity
“The journey inward is the journey from the issues of this world toward God. It is a journey toward the mind of Christ, beyond feelings of expediency or fear of what people will say, to truth itself. It is followed by the journey outward, back from the depths where we meet God, to the issues facing us in our everyday life, a journey which we now undertake with a new sensitivity to the will of God in all things.”