We are just into this New Year a week and already, so much has happened. If COVID 19 wasn’t enough to try and get our arms around, as we await our personal chance for a vaccination, the terrorist attack from within, incited by our president upon the heart of our country and its democracy, the Capitol in Washington, has left many of us in a state of shock. A new year is always a time to take a look at how we are doing and the aftermath of January 6, 2021 has given all of us cause to do some real, soul-searching. What is it that we truly believe? Who is it we say we follow? When perhaps we are lost in the way to go or who to follow, we should as Jesus instructed, “Check the fruits!”
May each of us be blessed to know the right ways to go and in that find peace and joy.
If I might be of help to you in any way, please be in touch–507-429-3616 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Please stay safe and well.
Love and peace, Pastor Kathy
When Jesus had been baptized, the heavens opened and the Spirit came down like a dove to rest on him. Then a voice was heard: This is my Beloved, My Own, in whom I am well-pleased.
Let Us Pray
Loving Creator, you revealed Jesus as your Beloved, Your Own by the voice that spoke over the waters of the Jordan. May we all who share in the life of Jesus, the Christ follow in his path of service to all people and reflect the glory of his kin-dom, even to the ends of the earth. We ask this in Jesus’ name with You and the Spirit, who Three live and love us forever and ever—Amen.
- Isaiah 42: 1-4, 6-7
- Acts 10: 34-38
- Mark 1:7-11
My friends, I always find it interesting that the liturgy of the Church Year moves us so quickly from the seeming, peace and tranquility of a baby in a crib surrounded by the love and care of his parents to the adult Jesus being baptized by John. Of course last week, we did find the boy Jesus in the temple, but that is all until his baptism which is recorded for us today.
But even the story of Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem that tells us so wonderfully of our God’s love for us humans—coming among us, is, as we know—fraught with danger and anything but peace. The baby that came, seemingly, so mysteriously into the lives of Mary and Joseph; they would very soon have to protect through their escape into Egypt from forces who meant to harm him.
This past week on January 6, 2021, we officially completed our remembrance of the Christmas Season with the Epiphany—the Manifestation of our God coming among us. The Magi—astrologers from the east, also known to us as, The Three Kings, made their return to their own country, signaling that this great story of love would be shared not just with the people of Israel, but with the entire world.
Amid the story of a baby coming among us—the manifestation in human form of our God’s love for us; a scene of destruction also played out in present time at our nation’s Capitol. As Senator Mitt Romney said of it, and I paraphrase; what happened here today was an insurrection encouraged by a selfish man’s injured pride and that man is the president of our United States.
This insurrection was meant to stop the acceptance by Congress of the 50 states certified votes which have basically proclaimed Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, president and vice-president and who will be inaugurated as such on January 20th.
Now this ceremonious acceptance of certified votes which is done every 4 years after a national presidential election and usually is hardly noticed in the news cycle was high drama this past week. A mob who violently broke into the Capitol were able to stop the proceedings for a time, but this body of elected officials was determined to do the people’s work and at 3 A.M. in the early morning of January 7, 2021; they completed their work announcing that Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris would be inaugurated on January 20, 2021.
What I found most interesting, wonderful and bordering on the prophetic, was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s words beginning again, the work of the people later in the evening of January 6, after the Capitol rooms were once again made safe. She reflected her strong Catholic faith and Christian stance in all of her significant life decisions, calling to mind that all the drama of this day happened on the Epiphany, the Manifestation of our God among us.
I say this, “bordered on the prophetic” because if this joint body of legislators did, in any way, experience a kind of “epiphany” regarding the oaths each of them took just days before to support and uphold the Constitution of the United States rather than their own personal ambitions, which seems to be the driving force for some within this august body, well—good!
So, my friends, we bring all this to the Scriptures of this Sunday that marks the beginning of Jesus’ public life among us. Isaiah’s prophecy of the Messiah is a cause for hope, not only for the people of long ago, but most certainly, for us now. I am especially comforted by the prophet’s words that the Messiah will be, “one so gentle as to not break the bruised reed.” Additionally, the Messiah will be, “one who will bring justice,” and one who will, “neither waver nor be crushed, until justice comes for the people who await it.”
We see too from Isaiah’s prophecy that our God will be gentle as well in dealing with the Messiah—“I have taken you by the hand and I [will] watch over you.” The wonder of this message is that each of us—by extension, will be dealt with the same care as our God deals with the Messiah, our brother, Jesus.
The prophet Isaiah continues, “I have endowed you with my Spirit that you may bring true justice to the nations.” The justice that Isaiah speaks of is what he further names as, “a light to the nations,” [to those who live in darkness], that will, “open the eyes of the blind”—think of the “blindness” that we all have witnessed this week! Isaiah also speaks of, “freeing people from prison,” and again we all know that there are many “prisons” that people need to be freed from; racism, sexism, clericalism and so on.
And again, we hear words of comfort from our God through these of the psalmist in #29 today, “Our God will bless the people with peace.” And we all need the gift of peace in these trying times!
Our second reading from Acts and our gospel from Mark both speak of the prophecy of John letting the people know that Jesus the Messiah is coming soon! The apostle Peter in Acts reminds the greater Church that Jesus’ time among us was filled with his, “doing good works.” Our time among those that we live with can be about no less. These are troubling times, yet good times too. Many needs within our society have had a “big light” shone upon them through this pandemic that has sickened and taken life from the poor and our black and brown sisters and brothers to a far greater extent than from those who are light-skinned—again the issue of our deep-seated racism as a nation.
We saw evidence of this at the Capitol in the violence of January 6th perpetrated by white folk and the uneven response of police as compared to the over-the-top force this summer in Washington D.C. to quell the non-violent protests of black folk over the death of George Floyd.
Another of the works of justice that our Congress needs to be about going forward is also related to justice. We all witnessed the wrangling in the Senate over stimulus checks before the Christmas holiday that finally gave $600 to people, many of whom have been in need now for many months. When talk of larger checks was raised, in the amount of $2,000, the word, “socialism” was thrown around by those who didn’t want the checks that high. That is an interesting comment coming from lawmakers who are recipients of that same, “nasty” socialism themselves, in the medical care that they all receive.
Many followers of our brother Jesus look forward to a new administration in Washington with the promise of more justice to those in need: a minimum wage that is fair and just, continued improvements to health care for all and a serious discussion and realization of the underpinnings of so much injustice through our national sin of racism, already addressed here, and all of this is just the beginning. We have much work to do turning around the assaults to our physical world—its climate through selfish policies of the past era focused on greed instead of care for the earth and its people.
My friends, we have lived through so much pain and suffering within families and among friends in our inability to even talk with each other due to what amounts to a “cult” in the person of the current president of our country—from those who believe every word he utters to those who are simply abhorred by most of his actions.
Again, I find the need to apologize to those who may feel that I am using this opportunity to be political but please know that my intent is anything but that. In fact, this is what has been so frustrating for many people, myself included—there seems to be no way to call wrong, precisely that, when we see it, without being labeled “partisan.” I believe Lisa Murkowski, Republican senator from the state of Alaska spoke well to this frustration after the events of January 6th. While asking for the resignation of the president, she asked her Republican colleagues to consider their own culpability with the president’s actions in the past that actually made the terrorism of January 6th possible.
Perhaps, it was appropriate that this era, 2016 to the present end in the deplorable display by some of the president’s followers that we all witnessed this past week—the day of the Epiphany, incited because of, once again, as Mitt Romney said, “a selfish man’s hurt pride.”
Each New Year calls us and challenges us to be our best. We are challenged in this New Year, 2021 to just that, no less! This may seem daunting, but our Christian baptisms and confirmations are clear on this, on how we must be going forward. When we aren’t always sure on the way to go, “check the fruits” as Jesus tells us.
Sister Joan Chittister ends her Christmas message of a few years back, yet still true, like this: “When the season of Christmas ends, we must all deal with the question of what we do with the fact that Jesus did become flesh. “If that’s true,” [she says], “then all flesh is holy, all people are valuable, all human beings are a spark of the Divine…what does that then say about racism, sexism, ageism and nationalism?”
The short reading from Acts today says that we must have the mind and heart of Jesus…
A Rochester, MN Franciscan Sister, Diane Frederick, whom I too consider a sister as a Cojourner with this group of women religious, wrote a homily for Epiphany where she spoke of the “Star” that led the Magi to Bethlehem as one that they were willing to change their lives for. She asks us to consider what “stars” are calling us?
And finally, as we consider what change we might be about in this New Year to make our world even a bit better, the words of Seneca, a Roman philosopher living during the time of Jesus is known to have said, “It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare—it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.”
My friends, may our good God in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, our brother and friend, be the “star” that we follow. Amen? Amen!
Prayers of the Faithful
Response: “Light to the Nations, hear our prayer”
- O God, as we move from the Christmas Season commemorating Jesus’ baptism today, help us to move more fully into following him, our servant leader, we pray—Response: “Light to the Nations, hear our prayer”
- O God, be with all elected officials—instill within each one, the nobel sense to act upon the oaths they took to serve our Constitution and the people of this country, we pray—Response: “Light to the Nations, hear our prayer”
- Loving God, give each of us health of body, mind and spirit–especially those struggling with life—threatening illnesses—COVID and all others—give each one your strength and wonderful gift of peace, we pray—Response: “Light to the Nations, hear our prayer”
- O God, help us to be true followers of Jesus, willing to speak truth for justice for those who most need our advocacy today, we pray—Response: “Light to the Nations, hear our prayer”
- O God, in this new year, help us to strive to be people of peace in our country, so divided—help us to remember that Jesus has glorified our humanity by his presence in it and help us to treat people and our world accordingly, we pray—Response: “Light to the Nations, hear our prayer”
- Loving God, help each of us to be your lights in our world, we pray—Response: “Light to the Nations, hear our prayer”
- For our community, All Are One, during this New Year, 2021, continue to give us welcoming hearts to be open to all who come to us, and inspire us in new ways to reach out this year to those most in need of our ministry, we pray—Response: “Light to the Nations, hear our prayer”
- Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, especially from COVID, but from all other causes too—give them your peace, we pray—Response: “Light to the Nations, hear our prayer”
***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts—then response
Let Us Pray
Loving God, we thank you for your great love in sending us Jesus, our Brother and Friend. Help us to model our lives after his, selflessly giving to those in need, being people of truth, faith and trust in your word. Let our lives reflect mercy, goodness and joy to all that we meet. Help us as a faith community to realize our responsibility to always be welcoming of all who come to our table—help us to be good listeners of other’s stories respecting their journeys to you even if the path they take is different from ours. Be with our members, Bob and Michael this week, as each continues to heal. Bless us, keep us, and hold us in your love—we ask all this of you, Creator, Savior, Spirit—one God, who lives and loves us forever and ever, Amen.
Let Us Pray—Again, we are separated, but Jesus, our brother is with us, just the same—we must always remember that!
Prayer of Communion
O God, may we follow after Jesus, becoming your children in name and in fact. We ask this in his wonderful name—Amen.