Sermon for the Second Sunday in Advent - Year B, 12-6-2020
January 1, 2021, 11:00 AM

Second Sunday in Advent

“In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.” Notice that we are in the Gospel of Mark. This is year B and we will have the Gospel of Mark just about every Sunday for the whole year. Maybe you have asked your self why Jesus who was sinless is being baptized by John in a baptism for the forgiveness of sins. I don't think this baptism has anything to do with that question. It is really about the Jordan and it is really about us. Our prelude was Deep River and the Jordan is the deep river we must cross to campground. “Deep River, my home is over Jordan. Deep river, I want to cross over into campground.” H. Thurman wrote about this spiritual and he says that to 'slip over the river is the chance for freedom.” “The river was the last and most formidable barrier to freedom for the slave.” Deep River could be the Ohio River or Deep River could be some river near the border to Canada. But the Deep River is always the gateway to freedom and today that Deep River is the Jordan. Jesus goes to the Jordan. He meets John the Baptist and is baptized. But Jesus really goes to the Jordan to lead us into the water and across it to lead us to freedom. Before Jesus another leader went to the Jordan. Remember Joshua, the leader of Israel after Moses. God exalted Joshua and Joshua led the people through the Jordan to freedom, to the promised land. Jesus goes to the Jordan, and now God exalts Jesus much more than Joshua. Now the heavens are torn apart. The Spirit descends on Jesus and God says you are my Son. We hear that voice. We follow Jesus through the Jordan and through baptism to freedom. When you go into a river, you get soaked. You get cleansed. We go with Jesus through the Jordan. We are cleansed and on the other side we come out daughters and sons with Jesus. As with Joshua there is a promised land on the other side. This time the promised land is the new Kingdom of Heaven on earth, the kingdom of Love. The kingdom of love where we have a new dignity, the dignity of daughters and sons of God.

This reminds me of Doctor Martin Luther King. King had a dream. It was a dream about the future and a dream about what awaits us on the other side of the Jordan. A dream of harmony, mutual respect, and freedom. King knew a way to reach that dream, For King the only way to reach that dream was nonviolence. Non-violence is the deep river we must cross. On this side of the river is anger. On the other side of the river is love, freedom and dignity.

Anger is part of our life. We can't help feeling anger. We feel it when something wrong is done to ourselves are to someone we love or care about. And when we feel this anger we want two things. We want payback. We want the one who inflicts hurt, who has prejudice, who deprives us of God given rights to suffer payback. And secondly we want that person to go on paying by losing status, by being demoted, by suffering a loss of stature. So when we are angry we want two things: payback and demotion.

Doctor King knew a different way, a creative way to deal with anger. Doctor King transcended this idea of payback and demotion. But king said, “I do not want to give the impression that nonviolence will work miracles over night...the nonviolent approach does not immediately change the heart of the oppressor. It first does something to the hearts and souls of those committed to it. It gives them new self-respect; It calls up resources of strength and courage that they did not know they had. Finally it reaches the opponent and so stirs his conscience that reconciliation becomes a reality.”

For King the first step is that we have to cross that deep river. The second step is we are cleansed and transformed. We gain dignity and self respect, strength and courage. We walk the walk of the Kingdom of love. This is how we transcend the desire for payback and the will to belittle and demote the one who sets him/herself against us.

We get in good trouble as John Lewis said, but only by the means of nonviolence. This means we have to get into the face of the one who hurts and deprives us of dignity and our rights, but never with the idea of payback, never with the idea of demoting the opponent. Only with love. There is a deep river and on this side of that deep river is anger and maybe hate. But on the other side of the deep river is the bright and beautiful future of brotherhood, sisterhood, co-operation, fellow feeling. Doctor King's dream. We will never get there by way of violence. We can only get there with love. And this is real and practical love. It is in fact the only practical way to change the world.

Today Jesus wants to lead us across that deep river. Jesus wants to lead us to that kingdom of Love. We can follow him. We can walk the walk of Doctor King. We can get ourselves into Good Trouble with John Lewis. But we can only do this if we allow God to transform out anger. To make it creative and fruitful through love.

We are called to prepare for Christmas on this Second Sunday of Advent by wading into that deep river and leaving anger behind so that we might emerge on the other side to love and to loving with each other. Let us pray that God change our hearts and give us that peaceful non-violence which is love and loving.

Amen.

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