Baptism of the Lord year B 2021

1. Given the events of the past week

a. I did what many of us did;

b. we retreated;

i. into our living rooms,

ii. into our bedrooms,

iii. into our TV rooms

c. We read a book, binge-watched old TV series, viewed classic movies.

2. That is what I did;

a. or at least I tried to do.

3. And I saw one that I had seen years before.

4. It has to do with an itinerant handyman named Homer Smith.

a. who one day encounters a group of nuns.

5. They are refugees from Communist East Germany

a. and are trying to establish themselves in the American Southwest.

6. As is stereotypical with Germans;

7. As is stereotypical with nuns;

a. They are very demanding.

8. The Mother Superior, who is the only one who speaks English,

a. insists Homer work for them,

b. Drive them to mass

c. and even build a new chapel for them.

9. His friends warn him not to get involved with the nuns,

a. For they will use him.

b. In fact, they already had.

10. But even though he is a Baptist and black,

a. he agrees to work for them and build their chapel.

b. He eventually becomes a part of their lives.

i. Teaching them English

ii. and taking a separate job

1. to pay for the completion of the chapel

2. when the sisters’ money runs out.

11. When finished, Homer leaves,

a. And the Mother Superior realizes

b. that in this black Baptist handyman named Homer Smith,

i. God had been with them

ii. and they had never even bothered to say thank-you.

12. That God is present in an itinerant, black handy man would be challenging at any time.

13. But this story was told in 1963

14. The yearan African - American Baptist named Martin Luther King preached a sermon with the words, “I have a dream . . .”

a. and the Civil Rights movement found its most eloquent inspiration.

15. The yearan African - American actor named Sidney Poitier

i. was awarded the Oscar for Best Actor

b. the first time an African - American had ever won Best Actor,

c. And he did it by playing the role of an itinerant, black handyman

d. named Homer Smith in the movie, Lilies of the Field.

16. That was the yearpeople realized that Lilies of the Field was a parable

a. of the thankless presence of African Americans in the United States

b. for centuries as slaves and servants, workers and warriors,

17. That was the yearthe Academy responded to that parable

a. by finally realizingthat real talent

i. could be present in someone who was black,

ii. and by recognizing it.

18. Amazing that it took so long. But then prejudice will do that.

19. Because by its very nature,

a. prejudice demands we judge beforewe see,

i. and thus, all we see is what we wantto see.

ii. And thus, we are blindedto the truth of what we see.

20. It would be unfair to use the word prejudice

a. to describe the people of Israel in Jesus’ day

21. They were not prejudiced;

a. no; they were simply sure of their faith.

b. God had chosen them;

c. they were God’s people.

22. Even though they had been conquered again and again.

23. Even though they were now the subjects of a pagan empire.

24. Even though this meant that they belonged to Caesar,

a. they knew that, really, they belonged to God.

i. and that one day,

ii. God would send a new king,

1. the Messiah who would conquer the Romans

2. and establish a new Kingdom that would never end.

25. That is why people came to the Jordan River to be washed, immersed, baptized by John.

a. They had to get ready!

26. For John was preaching that the time for that kingdom had come!

27. God was sending that king

a. who would be so mighty,

b. not even John could untie his sandal.

28. John might immerse them in water,

a. but this king would immerse them in God’s spirit.

29. And then one day a young man comes to be baptized.

a. . . . and then heavens fly apart,

b. and God’s spirit pours down in the form of a dove

c. and a voice proclaims

i. that this young man is God’s Son

ii. and that God is well pleased with him.

30. The way the story is told here,

a. only the young man hears the voice,

31. but the words would have been very familiar to him,

a. for they are lifted out of the ancient coronation ceremonies

b. of the Kingdom of David.

32. And for anyone hearing these words in years to come,

a. their meaning would be clear.

i. That this young man was their long - expected king!

33. Except that this man was no warrior

a. He was an itinerant handyman,

b. a carpenter named Jesus

c. from a back-water town named Nazareth,

34. Where it was doubtful people even knew the law, let alone followed it.

35. It is little wonder that ultimately,

a. so few people stuck by him,

b. And that even his own disciples

i. would abandon him to die on the cross.

ii. For this dead hick could never have been the Messiah,

36. But then Jesus rose from the dead,

a. and in the light of that event

b. first his disciples

c. and then others began to realize

37. That in Jesus the Messiah had come,

a. but as the one whom Isaiah had spoken of centuries before

i. in today’s first reading,

b. bringing justice, not through conquest and war,

c. but through humble service and witness to the truth.

38. And that in this itinerant handyman from Nazareth named Jesus,

39. God was with them.

40. it is amazing they did not see it sooner

a. but then prejudice will do that.

41. Because it demands that we judgebeforewe see,

a. it blindsus to the truth of what we see.

42. One does not have to have 20/20 vision

a. to realize that prejudice is still alive and well.

43. We saw it in the refusal to recognize talent in African American Actors

a. until Sidney Poitier played Homer Smith in 1963,

44. We see it in the refusal of some

a. to recognize the significance of a day coming a week from this Monday,

i. a day dedicated to that otherAfrican American

1. who so marked 1963

2. Martin Luther King.

45. It was an ingredient in the mob that poured into Washington on Wednesday,

a. desecrating the Capitol building and

b. writing the final chapter on the last four years.

46. We see it in the relationships between

a. men and women,

b. rich and poor,

c. Immigrants and the children of immigrants.

47. We see it between baptized and non-baptized

a. and even between the baptized.

48. Now the reasons for prejudices are complex and at times compelling.

a. For whom here has notfelt uncomfortable

i. with people who speak differently than we do,

ii. believe differently than we do,

iii. live differently than we do,

iv. love differently than we do?

49. And yet the result is always the same:

a. we create clubs and organizations,

b. groups and even different churches,

c. to provide us with groups of people

i. who think like us, pray like us, believe like us,

ii. who love the things we love

iii. and fear the things we fear.

50. We even make even baptism just one more membership requirement for one of those clubs.

a. And thus, we exchange the truth of Jesus’ baptism, and our own, for a lie.

51. But the first Christians did not

52. Because for them baptism could never be the causeof prejudice only its cure

a. For it makes all people equalmembers of God’s kingdom.

53. That is why when the first Christians began to baptize,

a. they baptized not only men but also women

b. Not only Jews but also gentiles

c. Not only saints but especially sinners.

54. That is why Saint Peter proclaimed to the first Christians

a. Jew as well as Gentile, male as well as female, that God shows partiality,

55. That is why to this day the Church remembers Jesus’ baptismal day,

56. For ifGod was present to them in Jesus

a. no matter whopeople thought he was

i. and his baptism was the promise of that,

57. Then Godcould be present in others

a. no matter what people though they were

i. and baptism, offered to all was God’s sign of that.

58. Maybe that is why the Church has called baptism a Sacrament,

59. because it is a visible sign of God’s presence and action in the world

a. not only tous

i. but throughus to others

1. so that all might be one.

60. And when we take our baptisms seriously,

a. seeing it not as a membership in a club but a mission to others,

b. then we automatically begin to break down the prejudice that divides us,

i. and we become that sign of unity . . .

ii. which is what the world so desperately needs,

iii. and what by definition what the Church created to be, and called to be.

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