Lay member’s lesson for Jan 15 reading. Marie Wise touched our minds and hearts.

Baptism

Dear Lord, I pray that the words I am about to give are the words you want your people to hear. I believe that each time I got confused about the message, you brought me back to the path. Please bless all attended here and may the find the message useful to their own ministries.  Amen

When asked to speak today, I was given a couple of choices epiphany or baptism. I immediately was drawn to  baptism.

Matthew 3:13-17

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 

14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

16 John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

I have been baptized twice in my lifetime, once as an infant in the Catholic church and later as an adult in a small Baptist church in Indiana. I have no recollection of the first baptism, but I do remember the second. As I came up out of the water there was a rush of lightness. Not a glowing light but weightlessness. It was like a burden had been lifted. I felt clean, exhilarated, energized. Like an adrenaline rush. Perhaps the Holy Spirit feels like adrenaline. 

Even though I have been baptized, I have always had questions about baptism, so this was the perfect opportunity to find some answers. I wanted to know how this ritual started. Why did John the Baptist choose this ritual? Why did Jesus need to be baptized? So, I dove into my Bible and though the event is recorded in all four of the gospels, the answers to my questions were not obvious. I had to find more resources. As I studied my notes became a jumble of puzzle pieces begging to be put into sensible order. All I can say is thank God for the internet, a couple of online rabbis, and one of my former pastors, Scott Distler, for direction and focus.

To answer the first question, how did it all start should perhaps be combined with the second question, why John chose this method of purification. John and Jesus were Jews. They would have been familiar with “tevilah, immersion of the entire body for the purpose of removing ritual impurity.” (Adler) This ritual has been practiced for over two millennia so, I think it makes sense that those gathered on the banks of the Jordan River were familiar with the ritual. They wanted their impurities or sins to be cleansed.  The only other way to atone for sin, at that time, was to make a living sacrifice of an animal; perhaps a lamb if you were fortunate or doves if you were poor. The Torah, our Old Testament, has quite specific instructions on cleansing with water in Leviticus 11. In Numbers 19 verse 9, specific water is to be used by the Israelite community for cleansing, for the purification from sin. It had to be living. In other words, it had to move or flow like a river.  Today, Jews still go to a place called the mikveh to ritually cleanse themselves.

Now, at that time, John was called out of the wilderness, the Desert of Judea, which surrounds an oasis along the Jordan River to a place called Bethabara (Bethany). He was busy preaching repentance to prepare people for the kingdom of heaven when he heard a voice telling him to “Prepare the way for the Lord.” (Matthew 3:1-3)

At the same time, Jesus made his way from Nazareth, which is in Galilee to Bethabara (Bethany), which is about 85 miles away. (Matthew 3:13) There the cousins greeted each other. I do not know how long it had been since they saw each other, but I can imagine hugs, slaps on the back, kisses on the cheeks and huge smiles until Jesus tells John that he has come to be baptized. 

John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” 

Then John consented. (Matthew 3:14-15)

What happened next was amazing! Matthew, Mark, and Luke, all saw it. They all heard it. They all recorded it.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was 

opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a 

voice from heaven said, “This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” 

(Matthew 3: 16-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22)

God approved and he let everyone know it. It was like when your kid hits a home run and you excitedly tell the guy next to you, “Hey, that’s MY kid!” Jesus hit a homerun that day and his father was delighted. He let everyone know Jesus was his son and he was proud of him. This was even prophesized Isaiah 42:1. 

Behold, here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight. I will 

put my spirit upon him and he will bring justice to the nations.

This brings me to my last question. Why? Why did Jesus, the son of God have to be baptized? He did not have to. Baptism was for the repentance of sin. Jesus had no sin. But three reasons come to mind. 

First, Jesus needed to relate to and set an example for people. He needed to show that he was like any other man. He also needed to be identified. Jesus was not the only one baptized that day. Along with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, there were crowds of people coming to be baptized. (Luke 3:7) They all saw what happened, but it was John who understood. 

There is a quote I came across during my education studies, “I hear, and I forget. I see and I remember. I do, and I understand.” John heard God telling him to prepare the way for Jesus, and he heard God’s voice that day. He saw the dove, a symbol of sacrifice as he performed the ritual. He understood.  John later says,

I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have 

known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, “The man 

on whom you see the spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy 

Spirit.” I have seen and testify that this is the Son of God. (John 1:32-34) 

Next, Jesus’ baptism served as his inauguration ceremony. An inauguration is a beginning, and this marks the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. It is immediately after this that Jesus enters the wilderness for forty days and nights where he is tempted in many ways. When he emerges, he heads straight back to Bethabara and begins to assemble his team, perform miracles, and tell people how to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Finally, Jesus’ baptism served as a representation of his birth, his death, and his resurrection. This was important because after Jesus’ resurrection he returned, for a short time, to his ministry.

When Jesus taught people about eternal life and salvation before His death, He included 

teachings found in the Law of Moses (Matt. 19:16-22). However, after His death, He 

included the teachings of the new covenant, which involves water baptism “for the 

forgiveness of sins” (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21). Jesus could not  

have preached this baptism until after His death, since it corresponds with His death, 

burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6:1-7). (Lance Mosher)

Think about it, on that day, the signs were all there, Jesus was proclaimed the son of God, the one who would sacrifice himself for all people. God said so in a voice that everyone could hear. The dove that came down would show that it was for all people not only the ones that could afford it. And he was baptized in “living water” so that he could give living water or salvation to others. 

Baptism was important to Jesus’ ministry.  It was so important that after his resurrection he came to the disciples and told them to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son , and the Holy Spirit. (Matt 28:19) We are part of the “all nations”. Imagine that! Jesus was thinking of us even before we set foot on this earth. Baptism was not only important for Jesus’ identification but, it is also important for ours. It cannot take away our sins. I believe only Christ Jesus can do that. But it can identify us as believers and fill us with a Holy Spirit. It can help us to become disciples in our own way and can help us when we are tempted just like it did for Jesus.  

Will not being baptized keep you out of Heaven? I don’t think so and here is why. Awhile ago, in 1980, my Grampa Wise was in and out of the hospital many times. I worked there so, every day, at the end of my shift, I’d pop up to see him. You see, I didn’t know him very well since I pretty much grew up in Massachusetts and he lived in Indiana. So, by my daily visits I was able to get to know him a little better. 

On his last visit to the hospital, I noticed something had changed. Up until that point, he’d be in pretty good spirits. Now he wasn’t so, I asked why he was so depressed. He said, “Depressed? I’m not depressed. I’m scared.” When I asked what he was scared of he told me he was going to die. That startled me for a moment, but something moved in me. I immediately responded with, “You don’t need to be afraid.”  He wanted to know why not, and it was as if the gate was open. I was able to explain to him how Jesus loved him and would keep him if he only believed. I believed the Holy Spirit was helping me then.

He told me that as a little boy his mom took him to revival meetings, and he wanted to let Jesus into his heart way back then but was afraid because there were so many people and he thought he would get lost in the crowd. All those years ago, a seed had been planted. 

It was a precious thing when we prayed together, and Grampa said he did believe and that he wanted to live with Jesus. After that his fear was gone. He looked forward to his death. He only wanted one more thing and that was to be baptized. I tried to arrange it, but we ran out of time. 

But here is the amazing thing. Shortly before he left us, Gramma was sitting by his bed while he dozed off and on. At some point she looked over and she saw him reaching towards the window by his bed. When she asked him what he was doing, he told her he couldn’t quite reach it. “Reach what?” “That hand. It’s reaching for me, but I can’t reach it.” She saw nothing but we both agreed that he had a sign from Heaven that he was indeed welcome. He passed away a day or two later at the age of 80. 

In conclusion, I believe Jesus wants us to be baptized. Through baptism we are recognized as believers and the Holy Spirit can come to us and help us become better disciples of Christ.

May. 1, 2022

Welcome Good morning and welcome whether this is your first time worshipping with us or whether you have been part of this worshiping community all your life. We are all brothers and sisters and part of the same family of God. It is a blessing to be together. We lift up to God all those who could not be with us today for one reason or the other; “ Bless them, O Lord, wherever they may be and bring them back to us in your time, Amen.” Today is the third Sunday of Easter. We are continuing to explore what it means to live as “Easter People” in what often feels like a “Good Friday” world. In our gospel lesson, we hear Jesus asking Peter over and over again if he love him. Each time, Peter answers, “Yes, my Lord, you know that I love you.” By the time Jesus asked the same question the third time Peter begins to feel hurt. He feels hurt because Jesus does not seem to accept his answer. Jesus seem, no doubt, also feels hurt because Jesus feel mistrusted and is reminded of the three times Peter denied Jesus. However, despite Peter’s initial shame, Peter went on to demonstrate his love for Jesus and Jesus’s and Jesus’ disciples and people, Jesus’ sheep and lambs and sheep. Peter went on to be the leader of the early Christian movement. Legend has it that eventually Peter was crucified, for his faith. At his crucifixion in Rome, he requested that he be crucified upside down. Why crucified upside down? Because he dares not be crucified in the same position as his Savior! What about that!!?? Here the Good News. T he mark of true faith is NOT PERFECTION, but rather, TO ALLOW OUR WORST MOMENTS TO DEFINE WHO WE ARE. This leaves room for you and me to be Resurrected. May your time with us today be one in which you come to know “Resurrection Power and Light!” Yours, In Christ, Ernest Belisle (Pastor) 1

Easter Sunday

Chilmark Community Church 9 Menemsha Crossroad Chilmark, MA 02535 Easter Sunday, April 17, 2022 Welcome to our Resurrection Day Worship Service We are happy to welcome you to our Resurrection/Easter Day Worship Service. Today’s Gospel reading is from Saint John, chapter 20. This gospel has the longest resurrection account. First, Mary Magdalene, a key figure in all the resurrection accounts, came to the tomb and found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. Mary was surprised by the empty tomb, so she ran to Peter and John and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him” (20:2). Peter and John came and inspected the tomb, going inside and looking around. They verified that Jesus was not there and then returned to their hiding place. Mary lingered at the sight. Jesus revealed himself to her and engaged her in a conversation, relating to her the importance of his resurrection and exaltation. In this Gospel, these two acts, the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus the Christ, seem to represent the importance of the events. We must note that Mary approached the tomb in the dark. For John, darkness is a sign of ignorance (1:5; 8:12; 12:35, 46). She is ignorant (not knowing) of where Jesus’ body was and his resurrection. Mary panic, she feared that his grave was robbed, which was common in her time. As the Sun rose and Light is given, her ignorance is dispelled, and it is only then that she met the risen Christ. What are the things concerning life and death of which you and I are ignorant? Think about it! We know truly little about death and indeed, if we dear to acknowledge it, life itself! This, sometimes, makes us fearful and even resentful of death, and indeed, life! Allow the Son to rise in you, receive the Light and you will recognize the empty tomb (death) and life for what they truly are! Look up, O doubting soul, look up! Eyes fixed upon the earth can never see the life that finds in death its glorious birth. Look up! And ever looking up, your eyes shall clearly see the tombs of earth filled with the light of immortality (Thomas Kelly) . As Mary did, may you seek and find the living Christ this Resurrection Morning! Sincerely, Ernest Belisle (Pastor)

Easter Message from Bishop

 Beloved in Christ:
 
Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
 
On the first Easter morning, the Resurrected Christ asks Mary, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” (John 20:15). When Mary fails to recognize Jesus, He becomes personal and says to her, “‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher).”  (John 20:16)
 
Though this beautiful and powerful dialogue between Jesus and Mary may be examined through different theological, cultural, and sociological lenses, may I invite you to recognize Jesus as the great servant leader who demonstrates the quality of empathy in this encounter with Mary.
 
Stephen R. Covey, from his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, writes “Empathy is not sympathy. Sympathy is a form of agreement … The essence of empathic listening is not that you agree with someone; it’s that you fully, deeply, understand that person, emotionally as well as intellectually.”

Dylan Marron, a podcaster and writer for the TV show, Ted Lasso, said essentially the same recently: “Empathy is not endorsement” (Dylan Marron, as quoted on Today with Hoda and Jenna, NBC, April 1, 2022). We could all learn to be better empathizers today.

On the first Easter morning, the Resurrected Christ asks Mary powerful existential questions: “Why are you weeping?” And not once, but twice, He asks what she is looking for. Mary turns around and calls Him “Teacher” in her language, a language familiar to her.
 
Beloved in Christ, on Sunday as we listen to and reflect on the powerful gospel stories of Easter, sing the beautiful Easter hymns with gusto, and smell the aroma of lilies and Easter breakfast, perhaps with fresh maple syrup from our communities, countless “Marys” will be weeping – here and around the world.

  • Marys who have lost family members to genocide in Ukraine or who are trying to make their way and find safety in a foreign country.
  • Marys who have lost the ability to afford food for their tables in Afghanistan.
  • Marys who have lost freedoms behind the wall in Palestine.
  • Marys who have lost hope and dignity because of sexual violence and abuse in Ethiopia.
  • Marys who have lost their homes, safety, and livelihoods in Syria.
  • Marys who have lost access to healthcare, food, and clean water to airstrikes in Yemen.
  • Marys who have lost children to gun violence on their streets, in their subways, in their places of worship, in their schools and shops, and in their homes in the United States.
  • Marys who have lost loved ones to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Marys who have lost … so many words could fill this space.

Like Jesus, may we strive to be empathetic to the Marys in our midst: grandparents, parents, children, youth, young adults – children of God of all ages, in spite of their languages, cultures, and accents, by asking the question, “Why are you weeping?” And let us not just ask the question but go on to act as Jesus did, calling Mary first, “woman,” and then, in an empathetic spirit, by her name, so she recognized him in her own language.
 
This past Palm/Passion Sunday, I worshipped with two of our congregations and joined them for a lunch following the service. It was a wonderfully collaborative service and gathering in which the congregations sang songs of “Hosanna” while waving their palms AND demonstrating the power of that message by sharing the scripture in three languages.
 
Among these churches’ worshipers is an Afghan family the congregations have been assisting as they become accustomed to American life. They have provided housing as well as rides to the grocery store and appointments while raising money to purchase a vehicle for this family.
 
Additionally, one of the churches presented me with a check for $5,000 to be sent to UMCOR, earmarked for their ministry and mission in Ukraine, and they boasted in Christ saying, “Bishop, this is in addition to paying 100% of our shared ministries for mission.” Praise God!
 
Friends, I know ministries like these that show so clearly our Christian empathy are happening in many churches in our Conference. Thanks be to God in and through the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
 
May God enable us to be a church of the Easter promise, not just on Easter Day, but every day, so all who are weeping – and I mean all – find and enjoy the hope Mary experienced on that first Easter morning!

Prema joins me in wishing you and your loved ones a blessed and glorious Easter!
 
In Christ’s love,


 
Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar

Bishop’s letter

Feb. 25, 2022Beloved in Christ: 
I greet you in the precious name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, during these troubled times of war in Ukraine.May I offer this prayer:
 
Gracious and loving God, we come before you with our hearts rent apart by senseless war between Russia and Ukraine. We cry out to you to bring a cessation of hostilities. We remember the words of the psalmist, 
 
“The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven. His eyes behold, his gaze examines humankind. The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and his soul hates the lover of violence” (Psalm 11:4-5, NRSV).We join a worldwide chorus of Christians who deplore the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We pray urgently for diplomacy and peace. We pray especially for those fleeing for their lives as refugees to other countries. May your grace and peace be with the children and all those whose lives are being uprooted. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen. 
Please pray for our fellow United Methodists in the region, particularly Bishops Eduard Khegay (of both Russia and Ukraine), Patrick Streiff, Christian Alsted, and all church leaders and pastors in Russia, Ukraine, and neighboring nations as they lead their parishioners in these difficult moments and days. 
 
May you consider giving generously to UMCOR, which has already sent $60,000 to install bomb film in windows of one hospital and 16 schools in Ukraine. More help will be needed for refugees and others affected by war.
 
In Christ’s love,
 
Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar 



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