View today's sermon on our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0oaZmjkrOeY.
This morning we celebrated Epiphany and the Baptism of Christ. We chose Star Words for 2023, or maybe we let them choose us. If you would like a Star Word please let me know... Pastor TJ at firstname.lastname@example.org or 207.323.6743. peace & blessings
Isaiah 42:1-9 - New International Version 42 “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. 2 He will not shout or cry out,or raise his voice in the streets. 3 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; 4 he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his teaching the islands will put their hope.” Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: 6 I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people,[a] a light to the nations, 7 to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. 8 I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols. 9 See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.
Matthew 3:13-17 - New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition 13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw God’s Spirit descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from the heavens said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
On Thursday I joined a Zoom conversation between Otis Moss III and Traci Blackmon, both respected UCC ministers with international name recognition. They were promoting Otis’ new book, “Dancing in the Darkness.”
During the conversation, Otis talked about a young boxer, a mouthy underdog in the 1964 heavyweight title bout.
Sonny Liston was the defending champion, Cassius Clay the young upstart. Many of us know how that fight came out, with Cassius Clay, later to change his name to Muhammad Ali winning in an upset after six rounds. But what many do not know is how easily the outcome could have been different.
Otis talked about Cassius taking a beating, losing focus, losing his confidence in an early round. And he credits Cassius’ cornerman Drew Bundini Brown.
Bundini whispered in Clay’s ear when he came back to his corner, “… remember who you are…”
That is where we are going today, where our scriptures lead us. Remembering who you are… Remembering what we came here to do.
We are beloved children of God, with whom God is well pleased.
Are we perfect? No. Does God expect us to be perfect? No. Does God expect us to go it alone? No.
What does God expect?
Remember who you are; remember whose you are; and remember what you came here to do, what we were sent here to do.
Can you hear yourself as the Chosen in both Isaiah and Matthew texts?
You, yes you, are God’s beloved. We are all God’s beloveds.
We this nation, are God’s beloved. Not to the exclusion of other nations, mind you. What if we all heard ourselves in this scripture? What if all people, and all nations were servants of God? What if they knew it, believed it, lived it? Receiving the blessing of God’s spirit, we, all nations would respond to our surroundings not with hatred or greed but with kindness and healing.
My initial response to these passages was to focus solely on how God treats us. I nearly missed the verses that speak to how we treat one another.
When we lived in Wisconsin, while visiting friends, we overheard their girls in another room… at the time they were probably 3 and 5 years old. A small voice said, “I need a little help over here.” This simple statement was powerful. An admission of our dependence on one another. And we have never forgotten it, saying it ourselves over the years.
Isaiah 3 A bruised reed they will not break, and a smoldering wick they will not snuff out. In faithfulness they will bring forth justice; 4 they will not falter or be discouraged till we establish justice on earth.
That is how we are to treat God’s beloved children; all of God’s beloved Creation so that all may know justice.
Who sees the people that aren’t obviously struggling? They are not homeless, they are not in prison, they are not orphaned. Yet they are diminished; they are in need.
They are not necessarily in need of something difficult; they need to be noticed. They need a little attention, a little help over here. A little easing of the bruising, a little breath on the flame of their wick.
Sometimes we get so caught up in the very real and very present larger issues of justice and peace that we don’t see the bruised, the dimming, the failing. In our tightknit communities, some remain unseen among us.
When we are baptized or when we join this church community, we resolve to let God into our hearts, to let God into the very fabric of our lives. What does that mean?
It means seeing the world through a heart that overflows with love. It means recognizing that justice is our work, not God’s work, but our work through God. It means remembering who you are. It means remembering whose you are. It means remembering what we came here to do.
Do not wait to be asked. Establishing justice on earth, like anything, starts small. It starts with paying attention. Pay attention to the often overlooked details. Pay attention to the often overlooked beloved children of God. See who needs a little help over here.
Rev. TJ Mack - January 8, 2023