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