January 7, 2021
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:9-11
Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you
to resist evil, injustice, and oppression
in whatever forms they present themselves? UMC Baptism Vows, excerpt
I was enjoying Epiphany, January 6th, busying myself with planning for the upcoming weeks, clearing out some of the piles and rubble from 2020, and preparing for the livestream service of healing we had planned for the afternoon, when a friend sent me a text asking if I had seen the news. It seemed an odd question for midday. I considered writing back to say, “Yes! The Magi arrived!” but instead found a news station on the computer and quickly became consumed by distress, grief and confusion.
I think it is a fair assumption that anyone reading this might have experienced a wave of feelings, perhaps accompanied by opinions, upon the news the US Capitol had been overtaken. As I’ve turned over in my mind what an appropriate response might be from a pastor for her congregation, I have found myself thinking about the scriptures for this coming Sunday, when we celebrate the baptism of Jesus. In Mark’s gospel, we hear God’s claim – you are beloved, with you I am well pleased. As a baptized people we are called to remember that God also has a claim on our lives – as a people of love and grace, a people called to seek justice and peace. I think justice and peace don’t always look like fairness, and they don’t always look like contentment but they do always look like a concern for the most vulnerable and a will to share our stuff.
In our baptism vows, we answer YES to a lifetime of resisting evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. Sometimes these are easy to detect and resist; other times we participate in familiar systems without realizing the harm that comes from them. Feelings, traditions, comfortable ways and unchallenged norms can swirl together and we don’t realize until the balloon pops, the kettle boils, (choose your own metaphor), that we have failed to actively seeks to resist evil, injustice and oppression in all their forms.
I recognize that some will find it helpful to unpack every step of the last four, or eight, or twenty, or more, years of American history to find how we got ourselves to the epiphany of Epiphany in 2021. What I am finding helpful is to remember God’s claim on our lives as beloved children, each with the capacity to ever anew choose to resist evil and to seek the kind of justice and peace that Jesus calls to us to seek. For me, this includes a renewed commitment to unpacking the under- and over-currents of racism in our nation, community and my own life; a will to speak out against violence; and a commitment to listening to seeking out places and people on the margins.
Below you will find three United Methodist resources related specifically to the January 6th violence at the US Capitol. I am confident that we will continue to find additional pieces, but I think these three offer a specific UMC lens from three different perspectives, and might be helpful to members of the congregation searching for help processing what we witnessed yesterday.
Peace to you, and may we remember our baptism – and be thankful.
Rev Stephanie Ahlschwede, Lead Pastor
Bishop Latrelle Easterling, of the Baltimore-Washington Conference, issued a statement January 6th regarding the violence in Washington DC, writing about hope “grounded in courage, in justice, in good order, and in fervent love.”
Find her statement here: Bishop Easterling statement
The United Methodist Women issued a press release January 7th, condemning the attack on the US Capitol, asking that UMW members join together in prayer, and reiterating the organization’s commitment to peaceful assemblies, and transitions of power.
Find the release at this link: UMW condemns attacks
This short piece from the UMC Board of Church and Society includes a statement of our denomination’s commitment to a peaceful transition of power, and the Prayer in a Time of National Crisis, which is found in our hymnal.