Sermon Archives

Sunday, January 7, 2018
Sunday after Epiphany (Year B)
The Reverend Areeta Bridgemohan, Curate
Irritating Epiphanies

Prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola (suscipe)1
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me. Amen.

Happy New Year!

Today is the first Sunday of 2018 which marks a number of beginnings. We heard the story of the creation of the world in Genesis. We read from the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark, which provides us with our first glimpse of Jesus in that Gospel. Today we remember and celebrate our own initiations into Jesus’ pattern of life and into Christian community through our baptisms.

This weekend we also celebrated our entrance into the season after the Epiphany - the season where we reflect on the stories in scripture where Jesus’ identity is revealed - in the visitation and gifts from the Gentile kings, in his baptism, and in the miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana.

In light of the revelation of Jesus’ identity as the Son of God, we are invited to reflect on how his identity shines a light onto our own identities and vocations.

Sometimes this light shines on us gently and leads us to slow and gradual realizations, other times God’s light illuminates some aspect of our lives quite suddenly and throws us new insights at unexpected moments.

Mark is known to be an odd text - abrupt, sometimes clumsy, written in Greek without literary polish, considered by some to have been written by someone without much formal education.2 This gospel is a dramatic and action-oriented story, characterized by long rows of sentences, each beginning with “And immediately…”3.

When Mark describes the heavens torn open - he uses the word ‘schizo’ - not a gentle and tranquil adjective but a dramatic and violent word. Both Matthew and Luke tone this word down to something like ‘opened’. Schizo is the same word that Mark uses in Ch 15 (15:38) to describe the ripping of the curtain of the temple at the moment of Jesus’ death.

This word ‘schizo’ signals that the barriers between the divine and the earthly are being ripped apart - whether referring to the heavens which Jews believed was a dome separating heaven from earth or the space between the Holy of Holies and other parts of the Inner Court of the Jewish temple. That word ‘schizo’ tells us that boundaries between the earthly and the divine, the everyday and the eternal were being torn apart and joined together in the person of Jesus.

One scholar notes: “What is opened may be closed; what is torn apart cannot easily return to its former state.”4

In 2008, in the middle of my public health studies at the University of Michigan, I had the opportunity to go and serve as a youth helper at a big Anglican conference in England, called Lambeth. I was part of a group of about 50 youth who were active in their churches - lay and clergy - from all over the Anglican Communion.

We arrived about a week and a half before the Bishops and other attendees so that we could get to know one another, help with set up and get oriented to the university, the conference program and activities and our roles.

At our first training session, they sat us down on the floor in groups of about 8-10 for an ice breaker. They asked us to describe our baptisms - when and where we were baptized and what memories we had of our baptisms, if any.

I began to get really uncomfortable. I figured if I let everyone go before me, then maybe we would run out of time and I wouldn’t have to respond. Much to my dismay it turned out that we had just enough time for the group to get to me. I squirmed as I confessed that I hadn’t been baptized.

My group stared at me, looking bewildered. The leaders quickly gathered us back into the larger group and began the training.

The training was on the logistics for the administration of communion in the big tent, which held about 1000 people. They gave us a description of the various roles that we were to take, including that of a Eucharistic minister.

One of my fellow youth stewards, who had been in my small group during the ice breaker, raised her hand and asked whether it was possible to be a Eucharistic minister or chalice bearer if one hadn’t been baptized.

I looked down and felt my face get hot as feelings of embarrassment and anger flooded into me. I don’t remember what the leaders replied, and the training quickly moved on from that question.

When I came back to Ann Arbor, I met with my priest to share my experiences at the conference. I had many wonderful stories to share. I also told my priest about this incident and fumed about my fellow steward’s insensitivity and legalism. Instead of sympathizing with me, which is what I was hoping for, my priest paused for a moment, looked at me and asked: “So why haven’t you been baptized?”

That question stopped me in my tracks.

A couple of months later, at the age of 26, I was baptized in the little Episcopal chaplaincy at U of M.

The truth is that there were lots of reasons I hadn’t been baptized. Some of it was rebellion against a sense of ‘in-group’ and ‘outgroup’ that I felt the church shouldn’t be promoting. Some of it was distrust of the church as an institution, and resistance to belonging to a church community.

Some of it was fear. I wasn’t sure that I could say that I would always believe in God’s existence or that I would always believe that Jesus was the Son of God. I wanted to keep my options open - the last thing I wanted to do was make a commitment to God that I couldn’t keep.

As I thought more on the question of why I hadn’t been baptized, I reflected on my personal experience of God up until that point. I had to acknowledge that God had been with me all my life and I realized that I didn’t ever want to come to a time when I wouldn’t be in relationship with God.

It dawned on me that my baptism wasn’t going to trap me into committing to impossible standards I couldn’t keep, but rather articulated who I already was and who I wanted to be.

While my baptism did mark the crossing of a threshold - particularly with the Episcopal Church, I realized it had already been with me. It felt like baptism stood within and outside of time - a visible sign of the basic truth that I was a beloved child of God from the time that I was knit in my mother’s womb, a sacrament that shaped me into the person I had become and that continues to create the person I am becoming.

In this season after Epiphany, we are called to receive and recognize Christ’s light in this world. We are also called to bear the light of Christ within us wherever we go, illuminating the path for others and for the world, guiding each other on our journey towards the Kingdom of God, trusting that God is making use of our gifts, quirks, baggage and jagged edges, gathering all of who we are into God’s plan of salvation for our souls and for the world. Thanks be to God.


1 https://www.loyolapress.com/our-catholic-faith/prayer/traditional-cathol...

2 Dowd, S. E. (2000). Reading Mark: A literary and theological commentary on the second Gospel. Smyth & Helwys Publishing, Inc. p. 2.

3 Dowd, S. E. (2000). Reading Mark: A literary and theological commentary on the second Gospel. Smyth & Helwys Publishing, Inc. p. 8.

4 Dowd, S. E. (2000). Reading Mark: A literary and theological commentary on the second Gospel. Smyth & Helwys Publishing, Inc. p. 21.