Who Are We Called to Be?

I come to you in the Name of the One on whom all our hope

is founded, Creator, Christ and Holy Spirit. AMEN

So often this week, when we have been horrified, angered,

ashamed, heartbroken at the images of rioters storming the

nation’s Capitol – leaving devastation, death, and chaos in

their wake – we have heard others and perhaps even

ourselves, saying, “this is not who we are.”

And indeed,this is a natural response. A response that allow

us to put ourselves at distance from those who would carry

the flag of the confederacy into the halls of Congress,

A response that lets us turn away from those who would

invoke the name of Jesus to justify their actions.

A response that allows us to avert our eyes and not confront

the myriad ways white supremacy was on full display on

Wednesday, January 6.

My friends, I would posit that to say, “this is not who we are”

is a lie. It is indeed who we are. And once we acknowledge

that this is who we are, the question for us then becomes,

“who are we called to be?”

“John the Baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a

baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Mark 1:4

John in his call to repentance is calling us to tell the truth.

For we can only repent when we stop telling ourselves lies.

When we tell the truth, we face squarely the false stories

that have lead to violence, dehumanization and destruction.

When we tell the truth, we acknowledge our complicity in

the sinful structures of white supremacy and Christian

nationalism that have been with us since our very founding

as a nation and before, and indeed since the beginning of

our own Episcopal church.

And a good place to begin this work might be to follow Jesus

away from the comfortable, the familiar, away from business

as usual into the wilderness where Jesus meets John the

Baptizer in our gospel today.

This familiar reading (one that makes its appearance in both

Lent and Advent) tells us how throngs of people from the

city and the countryside are coming to hear and be baptized

by John (the one who wears camel fur and eats locusts and

honey) They are leaving their homes to find him in the

wilderness, on the banks of the river Jordan, a place far away

from the religious institutions of the day, a place on the

borderlands.

And it is into this place that Jesus comes today to be

baptized.

Jesus, God incarnate, did not need to be baptized. Jesus, I

believe, chooses baptism as an act of radical solidarity with

those drawn to follow him. When Jesus stepped into those

waters, he stepped into an intimate, inextricable relationship

with us (in all our sinful messines, our woundedness, our

grief, our sorrows, and our joys ) and wedded his reputation

and his destiny to us. A destiny that would lead to death on a cross.

And God chose this place, in the wilderness, at the

borderlands, away from the religious institutions of the day

to lay his claim on Jesus, to tell Jesus and us who Jesus is –

“you are my son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.

God’s sending God’s son to us and calling this child, Beloved,

is a powerful acknowledgement of our own belovedness by

God. It reveals God’s deepest desire to be in relationship

with us. And when we say “yes” to God, when we say yes to

that relationship, we are saying yes to the way of love, the

way that leads to beloved community – here on earth as it is

in heaven,

Today, we will welcome Raina into the household of faith,

our beloved community. Her parents will baptize her with

water, blessed by Andrew, made holy by God calling it good,

waters from all over the world – as a tangible sign of our

unity and connection as the Body of Christ.

And before those waters are poured over her head, before

being sealed by the spirit, and receiving the light of Christ,

we will together renew the covenant of our own baptism.

And among the commitments we will be asked to make is this one:

Will you persevere in resisting evil, and,

whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?”

The time for truth telling and repentance is now. Friday in

his word to the church (a powerful message that we have

shared on our FB page), Presiding Bishop Michael Curry

quoted Archbishop Desmond Tutu who wrote, “Forgiving

and being reconciled to our enemies or our loved ones are

not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is

not about patting one another on the back and turning a

blind eye to the wrong. True reconciliation exposes the

awfulness, the abuse, the hurt, the truth. It could even

sometimes make things worse. It is a risky undertaking but

in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end only an

honest confrontation with reality can bring real healing.

Superficial reconciliation can bring only superficial healing.”

We cannot wait. The time is now. And though the journey is

long and hard, we cannot grow weary in our effort. And as

Dr King told those gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial,

in the shortest sentence of his “I Have a Dream” speech, “we

cannot walk alone.”

Our baptism and the reaffirming of our baptismal covenant

is saying yes to Jesus’s way of love. Saying yes to building a

community of prayer and fellowship, saying yes to breaking

bread together, saying yes to honoring and respecting the

dignity of every person, and saying yes to telling the truth so

that we might do the hard work of reconciliation and

walking together to live more fully into becoming God’s

beloved community.

So what does that mean for us All Saints – I believe it means

leaning in even more to our anti-racism work, our

community organizing work, participating in Speak-up

trainings, for those of us who identify as white, working

individually and collectively to recognize how we benefit

from white privilege and learn together how not to use that

privilege to our advantage. It’s speaking the truth about our

history, unlearning old stories that are based in a false

narrative, and discovering new stories by being in

relationship with others. It’s doing the little things and the

really big things that build Beloved community. This journey

excites me, it scares me, AND I am blessed to be on this road

with this community.

AMEN