First Congregational Church
(United Church of Christ)
Greg Briggs,
Interim Pastor

101 State Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720

Sermon & Weekly Bulletin~ January 12, 2019

01-12-20 Bulletin PDF

  1. Prayer and Introduction
    1. “May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our rock and redeemer. Amen”
    2. Take about 20% off there, Bud – a spirituality of subdued miracles
  2. First sign of Jesus as an adult in Matthew
    1. As miracles go, it’s pretty subdued
      1. No heavenly host, no random shepherds being sent to check it out, as in Luke
      2. No wide people coming from afar, no political drama, like earlier in Matthew
    2. “Heaven was opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God coming down like a dove and resting on him. A voice from heaven said, “This is my Son whom I dearly love; I find happiness in him.””
  3. What does a subdued miracle tell us about Jesus and about God?
    1. First, reminder of different story telling strategies.
      1. Again, each Gospel is different
      2. Mathew Draws parallels to earlier Jewish stories – flight to Egypt for safety, like the Israelites did. Now, a baptism in the wilderness, like Moses leading the Israelites back to the promised land
    2. Second, Jesus hasn’t done anything yet in this Gospel –
      1. Foreshadowing? Defying expectations yet to come
    3. Third, balance between exuberance and moderation. How much does one need?
      1. Imagine God, watching, like sitting in the stands watching a child in a school event. Sure there are times of exuberance, and there are times of content joy. Deep pride.
      2. Divine version of “I am SO Proud of you.” Genuine over exuberant
    4. Push back about how worldly pressures always say that something has to be “the best ever” or “extra” vs. basic.
  4. Baptism, part of the plan
    1. Why didn’t Jesus baptize John?
      1. Perhaps, because this is what is part of the divine becoming human. The full experience
      2. Perhaps, it is a support and affirmation of John’s ministry. He is living out his calling, and Jesus doesn’t want to diminish that or the significance of what John has done
    2. Not about circumventing the process, but being the example for people to follow
      1. Maybe not about John, but about the others. John baptizes in the wilderness, where the outcasts are. That’s where Jesus starts, where the outcasts are. Embracing the place of preparation
      2. Counter the expectations of the world of making everything a big production. Let the moment speak for itself.
    3. Space for all means making space– Acts
      1. Peter’s growing edge – I really am learning that God doesn’t show partiality to one group of people over another.”
        1. He’s learning, he hasn’t fully gotten there yet.
        2. Got some internal stuff to work through
      2. Moving away from “conversion first!” to “welcome first”
      3. Larger context, Peter is visiting Cornelius, a roman
      4. Just had a vision of eating ritualistically unclean food, and God telling him to eat.
      5. Peter working through inner repulsion – things that just seem “wrong”
        1. Has to put some things aside to be able to welcome others.
        2. Recognizes the challenge is within him, not other people
      6. Being 80% happy
        1. Real Good Church – goal was to keep members 80% happy, use other 20 % to make welcome for others
        2. Shift focus and expectations – seeking those outside
        3. That 80% can become 100%, if members embrace this idea of church
          1. Church is a place for me to be myself, and become the best self I can be – one that welcomes others
        4. Our church’s welcome
          1. Less about our perfect comfort, more about welcoming others
          2. God’s modest joy as an example – it is enough
        5. Welcome vs. micro-aggressions
          1. Follow up from my sermon last week, about having to tell someone the church wasn’t Open and Affirming
            1. Different levels of awareness
              1. Church isn’t anti-LGBTQ+
                1. ONA pastor
                2. ONA denomination
                3. Church did some work during marriage equality debate
              2. Church isn’t pro-LGBTQ+
                1. Has decided multiple times to not do ONA process
                2. Cites ONA denomination as enough
                  1. But we have a congregational polity
                3. For those seeking, needing affirmation, middle ground isn’t enough, especially when affirming LGBTQ+ identity doesn’t un-affirm anyone else’s identity – just may make people uncomfortable
              3. Unexamined privilege also known as micro aggressions
                1. Without doing the work, there is no awareness of this
                2. Me – questions about being married and having children
                  1. One, assuming that’s the “normal” way things should be, anything else is a bit off
                  2. Two – hetero-normative. No other formulations of family – I default to my family of origin instead of my family of choice
  • Many others – referring to future pastor almost exclusively as he – just one way it will be harder if the called pastor is female, or non-binary (are you ready for that conversation yet? See unexamined privilege above)
  1. Microaggressions – brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative prejudicial slights and insults toward any group, particularly culturally marginalized groups.”
  1. Without attempts to be aware & lessen – creates unwelcome space
  2. End of “we’ve always done it this way” to “what do we need to try to welcome others?”
  1. Baptism with tainted water?
    1. Jordan river is polluted
    2. Our ground water is polluted
    3. Flint Water is polluted – question, what would it mean to be baptized with tainted water?
      1. Health risks – wouldn’t use if it would spread bacteria, or disease
    4. Symbolism – lead or volatile organics?
      1. Remind us of our own impurities, and that it doesn’t matter to God
      2. Remind us that we aren’t just here for ourselves, but our communities?
  • Remind us of our unexamined assumptions and everyday blessings?
  • Come to the water
    1. The subdued miracle is sufficient
    2. You don’t believe me? That’s ok. Come and see

This just came through my local clergywomen group. Maybe others need this affirmation today. It’s a Baptismal Litany by Rev. Melissa Reed, a Lutheran pastor in OR.

When they say: you are alone.

These waters say: You are “with.”

When they say: You are too broken, damaged goods, too wounded, not enough.

These waters say: Enough, beloved. Enough.

When they say: You are too brown, child, Too black. Too queer, child. Too fat.

These waters say: Beautiful, child. Beautiful.

When they say: You are too addicted, stranger. Immigrant, alien. Criminal. Too far gone, stranger.

These waters say: Home, neighbor. Welcome home.

When they say: We could sell these waters and turn a profit!

These waters say: We are the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Atlantic, the waters of the Charles. We are the waters of your Mother’s womb, and we are free!

When they say: Fear.

These waters say: Trust.

When they say: Commodify. Consume.

These waters say: Life.


Acts 10:34-43 Common English Bible (CEB)

Peter is reflecting and learning what it means to welcome gentiles into the group of Jesus followers. This reading just takes place after he’s had a vision of ritually unclean food given to him to eat by God.

Peter said, “I really am learning that God doesn’t show partiality to one group of people over another. Rather, in every nation, whoever worships him and does what is right is acceptable to him. This is the message of peace he sent to the Israelites by proclaiming the good news through Jesus Christ: He is Lord of all! You know what happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism John preached. You know about Jesus of Nazareth, whom God anointed with the Holy Spirit and endowed with power. Jesus traveled around doing good and healing everyone oppressed by the devil because God was with him. We are witnesses of everything he did, both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him up on the third day and allowed him to be seen, not by everyone but by us. We are witnesses whom God chose beforehand, who ate and drank with him after God raised him from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Matthew 3:13-17 Common English Bible (CEB)

Baptism of Jesus

At that time Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan River so that John would baptize him. John tried to stop him and said, “I need to be baptized by you, yet you come to me?”

Jesus answered, “Allow me to be baptized now. This is necessary to fulfill all righteousness.”

So John agreed to baptize Jesus. When Jesus was baptized, he immediately came up out of the water. Heaven was opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God coming down like a dove and resting on him. A voice from heaven said, “This is my Son whom I dearly love; I find happiness in him.”