Baptism of our Lord

Baptism of our Lord, 1/8/2012

(I asked the congregation to sit Men on the Left and Women of the Right.)

<My personal silent prayer before I stand up to speak, May the words you bless me with praise your holy name AMEN.>

Today, I have asked that we sit set apart from one another as a stark visual of how the world teaches us to live… For some this is a reminder of what a generation or so ago felt like… for others… this is very uncomfortable…. Introverts and extroverts alike this is weird… but this is what our world is teaching us…

We live in a world that divides… who is in an who is out… walls, gates, fences divide nations, neighbors, even families..

We have neighborhoods that have gates to keep the riffraff out… Or like my father’s parents, they had a neighborhood association rules to keep African Americans out of their neighborhood…

I have a few signs here to help us along… what are some ways that we set people apart….

The obvious is Male Female as you are sitting this morning….(Held up colorful signs that had words or these symbols)

RACE…..Skin Color…

Income Level….

Cars we drive….

Clothes we ware….

And a whole host of other material things…

The world teaches us that division makes things easy… that there is order out of the chaos in the world… but division even fictions division is harmful… and two examples of the power that the external world has over the human psyche  is first in a classroom in 1968 and Stanford 1971…

Jane Elliott on  Friday in April, 1968, was not a normal morning. The day after Martin Luther King had been murdered in Memphis.

Jane divided her class into two groups… blue eyes and brown eyes.. drawing from the recent racism and bigotry that was surrounding Martin Luther King and the movement that was taking place within our country…

She told the class… that Brown Eyed Kids were better than the blue eyed kids… bluyes… Brown was smarter, faster and had bigger brains… and within moments of telling her class this… and making the brown eyed children put on arm bands… the smart comments started flying… even one about the teacher… A student asked how did she become a teacher… she had blue eyes…  If she had brown eyes… then she would be the principal or superintendent…

By the end of the day… the empowered brown-eyes kids proceeded to berate their blue-eyed classmates.

Then on Monday she switched it… This time, the blueys were much less vicious. But they Lorded their supremacy over the Brown Eyed children…

At the end of the day… Jane had the students take of the brown armbands and told them that… like skin color…eye color had nothing to do with their aptitude, brain size or anything… and the children embraced each other… some wept… other cried out with joy… that they were the same…. Division even fake… division can cause us act in some of the most odd ways… This wasn’t a new class… they had been with each other all term… it was April… They knew each other… but in an instant… their perception changed…

August 14–20, 1971 Stanford Guard / Prisoner Experiment

Within hours… mind you… hours… the guards took advantage of the prisoners… even verbal and physical abuse took place…

After only 36 hours, one prisoner began to act “crazy”, one prisoner  began to act crazy, to scream, to curse, to go into a rage that seemed out of control. It took quite a while before we became convinced that he was really suffering and that we had to release him…. This study was stopped because the abuse and even the confederates.. the people running the study became to engrossed into the experiment.

When you boil these examples down… from Stanford experiment.. Jane Elliot’s Classroom… to our church worship this morning… This is what the world teaches us to act like…. We can look back and say yes that is uncomfortable and wrong… but in the moment we too can get caught up in the division… we to begin emulate sin not Christ… who is in… who is out… who has power and who is powerless… I have fallen into my human brokenness… we call it snap judgment… in a micro second… I have judged you and set you apart… either in my life or not…. You are safe or you are unsafe…. At no point have I asked myself, how can I, mirror Jesus to this person… what might it look like to bring the Kingdom of God near… to this stranger…. Instead… it is ehh… I don’t have time for him or her…

The idea of being set apart or divided is not new to God’s people… In the Old Testament… in the beginning… We read about the sons of Jacob and how they treated their own brother Joseph…. They were jealous of treatment he received from his father… this had to stop… so they faked his murder and sold him to slavery… let us Go to our dear dear oh so intelligent disciples…

We can read in scripture that even the disciples wanted to divide and  wanted to set each other apart…. Who is number one and who is last… Let us open our bibles…. And see how I disciple friends worked to set each other apart….

Reference Text: Matthew 18:1, Mark 10:35-45, Luke 9:46

Jesus taught time and time after time… The greatest is the least… the first is the last…

So preacher what is the tie in to our Gospel text… what is the reason you had us sit apart… because in a sense we, God’s people, are set apart… but we are set apart differently… than the world sets people apart…

In our Gospel text… Jesus… the Son of God was baptized… the heavens tore open and God said… YES YOU ARE MY SON…. I LOVE YOU SO MUCH…. YOU MAKE ME SOOO PROUD… loose translation by Seth Gibson ….

Jesus was sent… by God… to be SET APART… the messiah… the savior of God’s people, the savior of the WORLD…but… THE WORLD at the time wanted a mighty KING… THE WORLD wanted a strong and mighty savior…. But GOD sent a carpenters son from Nazareth… God sent God’s SELF… Jesus…. God’s only son…not to be served… but to SERVE…. Turning the world upside down… The reality of Gods relationship with God’s people moves from an Exclusive relationship… who follows the law and who doesn’t… who is male and female…. In or out… to a relationship of inclusivity… Who else can God’s be in relationship with today!!!

(Move from Manuscript to OUTLINE, all my words are not here)

  • John 3:16-17…. Jesus came so that the world might be saved through him…
  • But God does not stop there… God could have… and in a flash… saved the world and all was better… instead…. Jesus says in…
  • John 14:6… I am the WAY… the TRUTH… and THE LIFE….
  • Jesus is the way to our father in heaven…
  • Jesus speaks the truth about our relationship with God our creator and our King…
  • Jesus is the life we are to emulate…to show the world what it means to be first in relationship with God…  No matter how wonderful or easy the way of the world looks… it is the life of Jesus we are to follow…

(and back again)

Jesus had no need to be baptized… but Jesus fulfilled all righteousness by showing us … that through the water and the word we are set apart… Jesus shows us that through the waters of baptism our ministry begins… our living set apart begins… we through the waters of baptism no longer live of the world…a life of sin death and decay. But we live in the world… to re-present, life, hope, grace…

The Apostle Paul writes… in 2 Corth. 5:17…we, through our baptism into Christ become new creations… we are made new… no longer bound to  the ways of the world… no longer needing to worry about whether or not we are counted in or out… because by the blood or Christ on the roman cross… we are now counted IN, forever… We ARE GOD’s forever, don’t let anyone tell you differently….

But the Blood of Christ doesn’t stop there… In Paul’s letter to the Galatians we read this wonderful passage… 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

As children of God… and disciples of Jesus Christ… through the waters of Baptism… know that you are set apart… you are different… through you… a new creation in Christ… God brings the Kingdom near… but we are not set apart like the world proclaims… no no no…

We, God’s people, are set apart to live amongst the sin and brokenness of the world… not hide in the locked upper room… we are washed… fed… and sent out into the world…. Regardless of gender, income, clothes, cars, stuff of this world… we are sent to show the world a better way to live… a life found in the love of Christ Jesus… a life of Grace Hope and Peace….

Today we gathered in an odd way to cause some discomfort… to not just break the routine of worship… of listening to the sermon, but to actually see and experience how the world sets people apart… and my hope is not only hearing the sermon but experiencing it… has helped you to hear and experience the Gospel that sets us apart to live amongst Gods creation..

Please stand…

May you know that God loves you and has faith in you… May you feel the Holy Spirit pulsing through your life and bringing the kingdom of God near to others… and May you see that you are set apart not to hide or be separated from the world…. But called to shine the light of your life … the light of Christ in the darkest places of our world…

Amen…?

Amen… Let us share the peace of Christ with people around us… some whom you don’t normally sit beside… and if you wish to find your loved ones or friends… please feel free to sit where ever you like…

Gospel Text: Mark 1:4-11

Reference Text: Gen. 4, Genesis 37:1-28, Matthew 18:1, Mark 10:35-45, Luke 9:46, John 14:16 2 Corth. 5:17, Galatians 3:27-29

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