Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who was crucified, God has raised from the dead. (Acts 4.10)
This is the first news you need to hear this morning. Keep it in mind as you hear the rest.
This morning we begin our service differently from what we had planned. Today especially it is time to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, who was crucified and who has risen. He is the first born of the resurrection; the rest are to follow.
Follow Jesus - follow Jesus through life, follow his Cross, follow him as he pioneers the way. He took upon himself the mortal life he lived, he took up the Cross, he took upon himself our sins, and he gave his life for us as a testimony to the truth. There is one true living God who created all things, who saves us, who loves us, who redeems us.
There are some sorrows and tragedies to tell you about. They have come upon us this week thick and fast. First we learned of the death of Bill McDonald, beloved husband of Lila, who died Monday. Then we learned Barbara Garcia was in the hospital, now in hospice care. We learned that Chuck Becker, who went through surgery successfully, then received the massive blow of a stroke. Thursday with his family I gave him last rites; Friday he died. This morning we remember Bill and Chuck and proclaim together our common faith and hope in the One who was raised, the One in whom we have eternal life, Jesus Christ.
And then this morning we heard the news that a friend of our family - and a friend of many families, in Tucson and around the world - was shot while she was going about her job as a Congresswoman, meeting with constituents. An apparently deranged individual, picking up on the violent speech of the political campaigns of last fall, moved into violent action, shooting her, critically wounding her, and killing six other people, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old child. Another dozen survivors were wounded. It is a tragedy for America; a senseless slaughter; a sad sign of our times.
We need to remember that democracy requires public safety, that for us to be able to govern ourselves as a free nation we need to be able to meet freely without fear. The tragedy is that freedom has been curtailed in the name of licentious violence. We need to stop this - and we need to do our part to make sure our nation remains safe and free.
This is something Christians can do - to make witness to the justice and truth and peace we know in Christ. We are not held to a higher standard - that is not the point; the point is that we know what the standard is. The standard is shown us in the life and death and resurrection of Christ.
All people are worthy of life; all have been given the gift of life; for all Christ lived - and died - and rose again.
Be free in Christ; be loving in Christ; and in Christ work together that the world may know his peace, his freedom, his justice. Do not be afraid; he goes before you, always.
In Christ who set us free
In Christ who leads us home
In Christ who shows us the way
In Christ whom we follow home
The Lessons Appointed for Use on the First Sunday after the Epiphany
The Baptism of our Lord
Year A, RCL