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Louie & Ernest Clay-Crew
Married February 2, 1974


12/21/1974
 
8/17/2006



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Epiphany I C





  H O M I L Y    G
R I T S
  The First Sunday After Epiphany
                                                                      
The Baptism of the Lord
 January  7, 2007
                                              
¶ Book of Common Prayer Lectionary -
Isaiah 42:1-9 God will bring forth justice to the peoples
Psalm 89:1-29 or 89:20-29 Misericordias, Domini 
Acts 10:34-38 Anyone who reveres God  is acceptable to God
Mark 1:7-11 Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by
John.

¶ Revised Common Lectionary
Genesis 1:1-5 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Psalm 29 Afferte, Domino - Ascribe to the Lord, you gods * ascribe to
the
Lord glory and strength
Acts 19:1-7 Altogether there were about twelve of them
Mark 1:4-11 John proclaimed a baptism of repentance

 One of the first things that everyone hears along the way about
the
Baptism of Jesus is that it was not necessary.  You can find the
statement in various commentaries on today's lections.  François
Mauriac
wrote, "Jesus came to submit himself to the rites of baptism like
any
other pious Israelite, as if he had sins to wash away.  It was
necessary
for the Son of Man to make this first gesture that he might emerge from
beneath that humanity which for more than thirty years he had been more
hidden than seed in the earth."  So the Baptism of Jesus has
become for
him a gesture, a part of a grand cover-up of the Nicene hypostatic
divinity which Jesus knew about all along.  (1)   The
Church has been
saying this almost since the beginning, for it was an embarrassment to
the early Church that Jesus had "submitted" to Baptism--the
word is used
as if it were an indignity to be endured, a hoop to jump through, held
up
by John over the shoals of the Jordan river.  Even John, whom 
Jesus
called "the greatest ever born of a woman" became, quote, 
"not good
enough" to  have baptized Jesus.  For baptism was the way
of 
matriculating in the school of a prophet, as a student and a follower 
of
a wise teacher, a guru, a mentor, and everyone was sure that Jesus had
nothing to learn from John.  And the writers of the gospels, towards
the
end of the first century of the Christian era, were reflecting this
embarrassment that the lesser had bapatized the greater that they 
quoted
the Baptist as saying "I really need to be baptized by you." 

Baptism is called an Epiphany for Jesus, and it is for us as well: 
a
surprising revelation of the presence of God in us.
It's a rite that's been around a long time--Jews baptize Gentiles that
want to become Jews:  it washes away the pollution of the Gentile
world,
its godless culture, its unbelief, its unfaith.   Baptisms were
not
strange to the Jews of Jesus' day.   There were baptisms
(washings) at
the pool of Siloam, where an angel stirred the waters,   and in
the
Qumran community.  Baptism was nothing new for John the
Baptizer,  it was
nothing unheard of for Jesus of Nazareth.  Baptism also certainly
has the
authentic component in it of cleansing--obviously, water is used (and
Baptism means it's used in abundance, not in atomizers or aspergillums)
and if you wash up or bathe, it must be because you're not clean to
begin
with.  Jesus thought footwashing was good enough if you had already
had
the tub bath of forgiveness. The rite of Baptism, both as Bath House
John
and his disciples practiced it and the Church has taught it, has
sometimes an overpowering aspect of getting rid of dirt, of sin, of
offenses.  That misses rather grandly the whole point of a bath,
which is
a preparation.  We bathe because of what we've got planned for after
the
bath--we're going to put on clean clothes and go to a party or to 
church
or even to bed to make love or go to sleep. And Baptism for J.B. meant
also new behavior:  Open your clothes closets and get out the
clothes to
share with the poor, open your pantry and your fridge and share the 
food
with hungry people across town.  That's what's required for baptism. 
Sharing your larder is the prerequisite to sharing this bath tub. 
Sharing our goods comes before sharing this Bath.

 But in our time, bathing is always (well, almost always) a private
and
an individual affair, and no longer reflects the communal aspect of a
splash party in which our Sacrament originated. So sharing as a
Christian
requirement has disappeared. So the Sacrament of Baptism degenerated
> from
being an acquatic festival with everyone wet from giggle to zatch, into
being a ghost of a sprinkle of dew from one perfect rose.  For
centuries,
it disappeared from capacious baptisteries with the bishop and deacons
and deaconnesses in charge of inundation, into tea cup sized baptismal
bowls and embroidered napkins to replace bath towels for the
neophytes.  
Baptism disappeared from the major festivals into an intimate little
meeting after the second lesson at evening prayer.  Jesus saw his
own
Baptism as ordination-- as preparation for his ministry.  When John
is
reputed to have said, "Hey wait a minute, we've got things 
switched
here--you should be immersing me" Jesus disagreed. He is quoted as
saying
it was fitting to the fulfillment of righteousness.  John's gospel
of
repentance precedes Jesus' gospel of love.  A rubrical
requisite.  
Nobody needs Baptism, for  Baptism, like bathing, is an
option.  Riding
in a crowded bus might convince you that not everybody has taken the
option, or made bathing a priority.  Those of us who have chosen to
bathe
are convinced that cleanliness is next to godliness, but as you have
certainly learned by now, cleanliness is no substitute for godliness. 
The Church long ago recognized that the smell of monks and nuns who had
given up bathing along with marriage and property was an aroma that 
came
to be called "the odor of sanctity" It wasn't hard to stay
celibate if
nobody could get close to you.  So bathing is not essential to
being
religious, or to being human.  In former times, cologne water was
lavishly used instead of soap and water amongst the nobility, who were
warned away from baths by medical advice.  

Just as we have recovered the use of real bread and real wine, instead
of
paper wafers and a squirt of Welch's for the Eucharist, so we are
"opening up" the symbols of Baptism as a real bath,  and
learning to use
big fonts, tanks, rivers, lakes, and streams once again, and aromatic
oil
for anointing afterwards, and new clothes that shout aloud, "All
God's
Chillun Got Robes."   Jesus declared, in effect "It
is appropriate for us
to engage in this act of solidarity with the human community--in its
commitment to the new age of God's rule on the planet earth."
John's
baptism was a re-commissioning of the people of God as a servant 
people,
a washing away (it is true) of the failures of the people to be the
People of God, and therefore, it was the "forgiveness" of a
nation's
sins.  And Jesus declared, "That's appropriate.  If we're
going to
inaugurate a new way to do things, if we're going to commmit ourselves
to
the revolution which recognizes humanity as God's people, if we're 
going
to lay out the plan of justice and peace, then we can begin with this
immersion into the project of liberation, the splash party of the
future."

We need forgiveness for the way we have treated Baptism as a way of
washing our hands of others, of setting out on a project of saving our
own necks and avoiding responsibility for everyone else, of dismissing
them all as the Great Unwashed.  The Church thus becomes a community
of
the self-satisfied who stand around sniffing to see if there's a trace
of
the odor of humanity left to wash away from the armpits of others. 
We
have treated baptism as a cosmetic,  like roll-on or spray can
deodorant,
instead of as a commitment.  We apply it to infants as if changing
their
diapers, when we are actually changing their names and nationalities 
and
politics -- it's really a proleptic adult commitment we are demanding 
of
them by the proxy of their sponsors.  Amidst the cooing and the
chuckling
of  infant chins, we demand radical, wild-eyed, revolutionary
vanguard
shouts and songs.  And when we bless the creature of water that so
generously serves our lives and our New Life, we commit ourselves as
well
to its future, its free availability to all, its purity and
wholesomeness,  as we commit ourselves to the future of the ones we
bring
to bathe in it.    

Listen up!  Look here!  Behold!  Here's my servant, my
choice, who
tickles my fancy,  in whom my soul delights!  So Isaiah's God
speaks of
the People, the Church, to whom the covenant is entrusted, in whom the
movement is to have its strength.
It is this People who will "bring forth justice to the
world."  This God
comes to give breath, spirit, to the human community,  and a Light
to all
people--to end the ignorance that has afflicted the earth.  And that
must
have something to do with who controls the management of communication
and information amongst us.   To open the eyes of the blind
must have
something to do with the news camera and with films, with the direction
of CNN and BBC and AL JAZEERA and MID-EAST REALITIES, and the pulpits and
periodicals of the land,   whose voice they really are. 
Baptism includes a bath for the propaganda industry that media management
has become.  Baptism will wash the world itself into the Wetback
Liberation Movement, wherein we are all swimming to the Other Side of
Jordan.   We've got to see and hear beyond the lies of the
capitalist system and its propaganda press, its oppressive university
system,  its privileged class power for USers and Europeans, lavish
table settings for White people,  gilded bath tubs for college
grads, purified water delivered to a few, while filthy cesspools are
left
for the impoverished Two-Thirds world.  Water, like air, has become
a
commodity for capitalists. 

"To bring out prisoners from dungeons." Baptism into the future
of the
human community means that we have the responsibility to act 
politically
through Amnesty International, to evacuate prisoners, to end the 
torture
that the U.S. practices on political prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, in
Cuba.  Would that Fidel would swoop down on that prison like an
avenging
angel, and set the prisoners free, and send the torturers packing back
to
USA. "I'll take them by the hand", says Yahweh, "and lead
them out of
prison."  Our system says "Lock up the poor! 
Electrocute the offender! 
Poison the dissenter!" but John Baptist declared, "How about a
Baptism
for the forgiveness of sins? Änd Jesus agreed--"YES! Let's go that
route
instead!" Empty the jails and the prisons-- find the convict a job
instead, in a rearranged and redeemed community.  "Former
things have
come to pass, and now new things I declare:  New Ways I now
inaugurate in
the Bath of Jesus of Nazareth."    Baptism itself got
a washing in the
ministry of Jesus.  It was no longer to be a mere ritual, like
circumcision.  It wasn't to be allowed to be a religious ceremony
for
identifying proper people and making them members of a not-for-profit
corporation for religious activity, which corporation must agree not to
engage in political activity or in anything which might promote change
in
the Domination System.

Baptism has been washed in the Baptism of Jesus.

It has been made now an inauguration, in which the cosmos itslf is
disrupted and re-arranged.  There's a big RIP in the heavens, they
tear
open at this baptism, and the Bath Gol, the daughter of a voice from
heaven, speaks:  "This is the One.  This is my Child, who
pleases me." 
So Jesus is anointed the King-Pin,  we sould say the Hinge, the
opener,
of the revolutionary vanguard that is God's liberation
movement.   The
Lucha,  the Struggle, continues,  breaks open the New
Day.  So to be
baptized means not just to be committed to the religous association
known
as the priory or parish church, or   the Diocese (or
Household), the conference, the presbytery, or the world-wide
denomination or Communion,  or even the Holy Catholic and 
Apostolic
Church, in which we say we believe when we sing our pledge of
allegiance.   We commit ourselves and we can't back out of it,
according
to ancient and honorable church teaching--to renege on our vows is
treason.   We have committed ourselves to the liberaiton of
humankind, to
the liberation of women, the healing of the nations, the health of the
planet. 

Peter had been to Pentecost, just as all of us have been to
Baptism.  But
it took some time--it took the encounter we learn of in today's reading
> from Acts--before Peter fully explored what his immersion in fire and
water was to mean.   He ran into a pagan---Cornelius, a Roman
soldier
stationed at the military post in Caesarea.  Cornelius got the idea
that
he needed to be involved in something more than his work of imposing 
the
Pax Romana on the Jewish community by means of military might, which he
represented and was a part of.   Cornelius was to Peter as the
U.S.A. and
its imperial power are in the world today.  These are the lies 
that
Cornelius brought to Peter to be baptized, to be washed away, to be
changed.  Cornelius also was confronted by the Baptism of John, 
the
Baptism of Jesus, the Baptism of Peter:  No brutality, no graft, 
no
bribes, share with those who don't have.  Every military person
needs to
hear these requirements of Baptism once more.  And Peter said,
"I see it
now--it is true that God shows no partiality.  Whether it's Rome or
the
USA or Russia, in every nation the people who fear God and do what is
right are acceptable.  The word of the good news of Peace that God
sent
by Jesus is the word which makes it possible for everyone to have the
good of Baptism done to them, to be healed, to get out from under
oppression.   It is the universal authority of Jesus, which is
what
lordship means, which creates the inauguration and gives the duty and
power to extend--that we are baptized into.

So the feast of the baptism of Jesus is the birthday, the Christmas 
Day,
of the Revolution, the nativity of the international and interplanetary
movement,  the Frente of John the Baptist and the Frente of Jesus
of
Nazareth.  Your Baptism means that you are committed to God's brand
of
justice, it means you've accepted appointment as an agent and an asset
to
revolutionary change,  and it means you've accepted immersion in,
solidarity with, all the changes necessary to create a truly human
future.
Jesus didn't have to be baptized, and neither did you.  But he
accepted
it, and you have accepted it, to fulfill all justice
possibilities.   And
you have accepted it on exactly the same terms.  By becoming a
baptized
person,  Jesus opted for a lifestyle of sharing, of being a healer
in the
lives of others, not a destroyer or a menace to the lives of
others.  A
giver, not a taker.  Baptism, like God herself,  is no
respecter of
persons, and because of his immersion into the Kingdom of God, Jesus
becomes judge of all of us, the living and the dead.  And so do we.
"Do
you not know the saints will judge the world?   Do you not know
that we
are to judge angels?" (2)
 
GRANT GALLUP
Apartado RP-10
CASA AVE MARIA
Managua, Nicaragua C.A.
Tel. 011-505-2662165
grant73@turbonett.com.ni
GRITS now on-line:  
http://newark.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/homilygrits

(1) "Baptism of Jesus," from La Vie de Jésus by Francois
Mauriac.
Copyright Librairie Ernest Flammarion 1936. From "Portrait of
Jesus", ed.
Peter Seymour, Kansas City Mo Hallmark 1972.
(2) (I Cor. 6.2-3).  


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