"Capitol Riots and Baptismal Promises" by Pastor A.J. Houseman
Updated: Jan 21
We often do a lot of talking in the church about ministry on the margins. Maybe you have heard a sermon or two about this. Perhaps you've read an article in a church publication about ministry with the marginalized in this world.
As Episcopalians and Lutherans we take this social ministry very seriously as a calling from Jesus Christ to “go and do likewise”. Much of what we proclaim in our faith is mimicking the work and words of Jesus.
Jesus said feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned. So we do. Jesus was baptized, so we are baptized. He heals the sick and the paralyzed. He talks about loving your neighbor, so we do. He travels into the broken and outcast places of the world to heal lepers and drink water with an unmarried Samaritan woman at a well.
He risks his own cleanliness and his own reputation to do this ministry at the margins. Even as he is baptized, he is baptized on the margins. Not in the temple, not in the center of town for all to see. No, he is baptized in the Jordan which is the intersection of the land of milk and honey and the wilderness.
But Jesus also leads us into another marginal space, one that feels frustratingly impossible sometimes. The space of loving your enemy and praying for those who persecute you.
This week, we witnessed a rhetoric of hate on display for the entire world to see as an angry mob violently forced their way in the center of our democracy wielding banners of bigotry.
An image of a man waving a flag, colloquially known as the “Confederate flag” though it was never such, this flag was formerly the Northern Virginia battle flag which took on a whole new meaning that we see today in the 1950s in response to the civil rights movement. A flag that today stands for racism being paraded around the halls of democracy and freedom.
Another banner with the Nazi symbol and the words, “6 million was not enough” was flown high in support of the detainment and mass genocide of our Jewish siblings.
“Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you?!” You’ve got to be kidding me Jesus! Am I right?
Remember friends, Jesus was a Jew. Jesus was a brown man. Jesus was baptized and lived on the very margins these banners condemn.
“Love your neighbor and pray for those who persecute you.” I do pray for them. I pray that they God will open their hearts from fear and prejudice to love and mercy. And as most of them are Christians, I pray they can learn to fulfill the promises we make in our baptisms.
Through our baptism we make a covenant with God. A covenant is a contractual relationship made on promises. God’s promise is for us to have love, mercy, forgiveness of sins, and everlasting life in our baptism.
OUR promise that for many of us was made for us as infants and that we publicly affirmed in our confirmation is what we agreed to when the minister asked us this:
Do you intend to continue in the covenant God made with you in holy baptism:
to live among God’s faithful people,
to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper,
to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed,
to serve all people, following the example of Jesus,
and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth?
And we said: I do and I ask God to help and guide me.
Those last 3 lines are the ones that I pray for the insurgents to remember, for anyone carrying these banners to remember, and for us ALL to remember: that in our calling to mimic the son of God, the most high, the holy work of the one who died to forgive us all of our sins, we made a promise to God. To love. To strive for justice and peace. To serve all people.
Do you intend to continue the covenant God made with you in your holy baptism? I do… but man, do I need God’s help.
On the day of Epiphany, the celebration of the revelation of God being incarnated human, in 2021 will be a day many of us will remember like Pearl Harbor and 9/11. The day the halls of democracy were violently vandalized for the first time in over 200 years.
Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber of Denver Colorado said, “on today, the feast of epiphany, I am reminded that an insecure ruler named Herod was so threatened by the birth of Jesus that he tried to overthrow the results by putting a hit out on a toddler.”
I am asking for God’s help.
For peace, for justice, for help in mimicking Jesus’s work and words. For them, for us, for our country. For us all. We ask God to help and guide us.
Because friends, this may mark the end of a presidency, but this is not the end of hate. This is not the end of bigotry, of racism, of anti-semitism.
It is not over. It’s not all going to magically be rainbows and butterflies on January 20th.
We are going to have to continue to work hard on the margins to fulfill our baptismal promises. We are still going to have to work hard to love and to serve. Our friends, our neighbors, and our enemies.
So let this be your mantra, it’s going to be mine, “I will and I ask God to help and guide me”.
Yes, God, help me and guide me towards grace and mercy. Towards forgiveness and reconciliation. Guide us all, Lord.
We are baptized in the grace and light of God. In the unity of the Holy Spirit. Let us continue to strive for our end of the bargain.
I will and I ask God to help and guide me. Amen.