Last week we participated in the baptisms of Leoni, Lila, and Dean. Last week we reaffirmed our own baptismal vows by promising to continue in worship, prayers, repentance, evangelism; in seeking Christ in all people, to strive for justice, and to respect the dignity of every human being. Last week we celebrated with two families as those three children were adopted into the household of God. And last week we saw the church at its best.
Today our gospel lesson follows what passes for Jesus' baptismal account in John; much like our liturgy today follows a baptism story in the life of this parish. As we move through this post-baptismal story, notice how much emphasis the gospel passage places on what is seen.
John declares that he saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove and alighting on Jesus. This vision is a confirmation of a message from God that he would see this event, to which John testifies that he did indeed see it.
The next day he sees Jesus walking by and he proclaims him to be the Lamb of God. Two of his disciples then go and follow Jesus, who turns and sees them.
He asks, “What are you looking for?” They in turn ask him, “Where are you staying?” He responds, “Come and see.” And they went and saw.
Andrew then goes and invites his brother to also come and see what they saw. Jesus looks at Simon and sees Peter.
There is a lot of seeing going on. This theme of seeing is especially appropriate here in this season of Epiphany.
The Feast of the Epiphany, or the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, is all about seeing. The wise men saw the star and followed it to Bethlehem and the house of Mary and Jesus. Upon entering the house they saw the child.
So here we are in this season of seeing with a gospel where seeing is a major theme. In this time of seeing, in this time of Epiphany and epiphanies, what do we see?
What do we see in the world around us?
I see a world that lives in fear and anger.
I see a world too quick to use violence.
I see a world where those in power strive to keep that power rather than help the powerless.
I see a world where minorities of every kind are punished for so-called moral failings.
I see a world where justice is based on the color of your skin or the size of your bank account.
What do we see in the Church, particularly in this specific part of the Church we call St. John's?
I see a community that is hopeful.
I see a place that strives for understanding.
I see a place where people use their position to reach out to others.
I see a place that recognizes we all fall short and help each other up.
I see a place that proclaims all are equal in the eyes of God and works to respect the dignity of every human being.
The Season of Epiphany is all about seeing the kingdom of God in the world as well as seeing the presence of Christ in our midst.
With the ever present difference between what we see in the world and what can be seen in the best of the Church, how can we go about doing this? As Episcopalians, I think we have an advantage because we are able to fall back on and continually reference our baptismal covenant.
Will you make worship and prayer a priority in your life?
Will you resist the evil of racism, sexism, misogyny, domestic violence, and sin of every kind?
Will you recognize that resisting evil may mean standing up, speaking out, and actively opposing evil when you see it played out in everything from swastikas painted on synagogues to “harmless” jokes told by a friend or co-worker?
Will you evangelize and, like Andrew, make the move to bring someone into this community?
Will you see Christ in all persons, Republican and Democrat, rich and poor, black and white, gay and straight, male and female?
Will you respect the dignity of every human being?
These are hard things to do. But we do them here first. We learn to see this place as a manifestation of the kingdom of God. And when we get good at seeing God present here and in each other, we can then go out and work to transform the world; because the world as I see it now needs our help.
Fifty-four years ago our country was also in turmoil. The sins of racism and white supremacy were visible everywhere. Fifty-four years ago a man stood up not far from here to proclaim a vision and dream he had seen. And although he was a Baptist, his dream could have come directly from our baptismal covenant. It was a dream that resisted evil. It was a vision where people loved their neighbor regardless of skin color. It was a dream and vision where justice prevailed and all people were respected for who they were.
Fifty-four years later we are still chasing that dream. Two thousand years later, we are still being asked to come and see for ourselves. And in both cases, we are still asked to invite people to join us and see the manifestation of God in the world.
John saw the Lamb of God.
Andrew saw the Messiah.
Jesus saw Simon for who he really was.
Martin Luther King, Jr. saw a vision of respect, dignity, and equality for all people.
In this Epiphany season, where do you see the kingdom of God in your life, in this church, and in the world?