Chris Heavner, Clemson, SC

Warm-up Question

How does the COVID vaccine work?

It Works!

Like most of you, I am eager to for my turn to come.  When either of the approved vaccines becomes available, my sleeve will be rolled up and ready.  These months have been lonely and life has been devoid of so many of the small experiences which make life such a joy.  

But, I have to admit that I really don’t know how the vaccine does what it is supposed to do.  Someone told me it gives me a mild case of COVID which allows my body to build up its own antibodies. (I am not really sure what antibodies are either.)  Seems I heard that the RNA of the virus tells my DNA what to do.  

What I do know is that getting the flu vaccine has protected me for years.  I remember making a trip to the school building for my polio vaccine (it was administered on a cube of sugar!)  So when the vaccine is finally offered – I will be ready to take it.

You might want to do some research.  Dr Cheryl Smith is a member of my home congregation.  She taught me to look for information in the right places.  I would suggest this one from the Center for Disease Control.  I also found it helpful to ask someone I trusted.  Christine worked in one of the university labs and she is great at helping me understand what I read in those journals.  

It is good for us to have some level of understanding; but in the end we may decide to take the vaccine based on the advice and recommendations of those whom we trust.  I trust Anthony Fauci.

Discussion Questions

  • Will you take the COVID vaccine when it is available?

  • Why do you think some folks have decided not to take the vaccine?

  • Name one thing which you do even though you don’t understand how it accomplishes what you have been told it will accomplish

  • Have you been baptized?  How does baptism work?

Baptism of our Lord 

Genesis 1:1-5

Acts 19:1-7

Mark 1:4-11

Epiphany of our Lord (alternate)

Isaiah 60:1-6

Ephesians 3:1-12

Matthew 2:1-12

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

The practice of baptism began before the start of the Christian Church.  Hindu practice includes a ritual similar to the ceremonial washing experienced at the Jordan River by those who went out to experience John the Baptizer.  John invited his hearers to cleanse their bodies as an indication of the cleansing of their inner moral selves.  Some may have entered the waters without having first examined their hearts.  It is likely that some left convinced that their “bath” had made them clean.

Early leaders of The Way (what Christians were first called) continued the practice of baptism as an external mark of an internal alteration.  Our church believes and teaches that the water alone can do nothing, but when the water is combined with the Word we are truly made new.  The baptism event is important, it is sacred.  Even more significant is the way it acknowledges our identity and our relationship with God.  A Christian baptism is a baptism into the death and resurrection of Our Lord.

Those who are baptized by John may not fully comprehend the ways in which their lives are being transformed.  Yet, John is preparing them for the One who will come after him.  Other fiery preachers along the Jordan River spoke of the dangers of sin and sinfulness.  John’s ritual  offers more; it cracks open the gates through which the Messiah will enter.  John’s testimony is true, even if those who hear it may not completely understand how it all works.  “I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”  John does a wonderful thing for those who come out to see him.  But something much, much, much better lies ahead.

Discussion Questions

  • Do you find it frustrating when adults say to you, “I don’t know why it is that way, it just is.”?  Have you ever thought, “Maybe they don’t have a good answer?”  Maybe all they have is a feeling deep within their hearts that this is indeed true, truer than anything they can explain.  How do you decide whether you can trust such feelings?

  • Share an experience in which you were totally unable to convince someone of something you believe (we might even say which you KNOW) to be true.

  • What is the process at your congregation for those who would be baptized?  Is there an instructional class?  Does the pastor make a visit?

  • Our tradition welcomes infants to the baptismal font.  This is to remind us that God is the one who acts; we respond.  Do you have friends or family members who insist that only adults be baptized?  What do  you think they understand baptism to be?

Activity Suggestions

Pull out a copy of Luther’s Small Catechism and read the section on baptism.  Ask questions!  And remember that you get the best answers from those who don’t have all the answers.  After you have read the Small Catechism, look at the baptismal liturgy in the hymnal.  Take notice that there is very little for the one being baptized to say or do.  This is true even when the one being baptized is an adult.

Closing Prayer

Help us, in the midst of things we cannot understand, to believe and trust in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, and the resurrection to life everlasting.  Amen.  (From the funeral liturgy in Evangelical Lutheran Worship)