Weekly Lessons and Sermon
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always
acceptable in your sight, oh Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
acceptable in your sight, oh Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
On a not so special night:
A regular old night like any other,
Nicodemus sought Jesus out for a conversation.
Nicodemus was full of curiosity.
He had questions.
And an ordinary night,
was transformed into an extraordinary one,
Because of Jesus.
Jesus transformed a regular night, with some regular questions
Into a remarkable, life-changing event.
And by the end of the Gospel of John,
Nicodemus is a new person.
If someone asked him what made him who he was at that time,
He may have found himself returning to that regular old night,
When the extraordinary God changed his life.
And that’s often how it is.
Extraordinary experiences come out of the ordinary ones.
The extraordinary God:
Comes to us as an ordinary human:
Yet extraordinarily God.
Dying a human death:
Yet rising to new life in the most extraordinary event of all time.
It’s the message of Christmas.
It’s the message of Easter,
And it’s the message of all life in between.
It’s the message of the Trinity: which we celebrate today.
And it’s worth asking yourself:
How it’s worked out in your own life?
What moments have made you into who you are today?
Some moments are probably spectacular.
Others earth-shattering, even heartbreaking, and more.
But when we really take the time to reflect on what made us who we are right now:
Today, In this moment:
We will likely come up with the names of people who have filled our lives.
Little things they did, or said to us:
Things that they might not even remember today:
But have stayed with us and changed us.
Little, ordinary things:
That became extraordinary, lifechanging transformations:
Shaping us into the people we are today.
For me, one of those little moments was on Trinity Sunday, 1999.
When I stood at Trinity Episcopal Church in Pierre, SD
And preached my first sermon.
I was eleven.
All because some ordinary adults in my congregation believed that an ordinary sixth grader could preach about the extraordinary love of God.
And that began to shape me into who I am today.
An ordinary moment, of lifechanging transformation.
This truth about the ordinary becoming extraordinary is a hint to us that God:
Our awesome, all knowing God:
Is right there with us:
Taking what might be the most ordinary of moments,
And breathing a little extra into it:
So that over time, it becomes something extraordinary.
And as Christians:
We are called to be witnesses to this reality:
Of the ordinary and mundane,
Transformed into something incredible, awesome, and extraordinary:
And seeing the world in a new way:
As we become aware of the movement of God transforming us.
In today’s Gospel story,
We see Jesus launch the transformation of Nicodemus
From a questioning leader:
To a witness to the movement of God.
And the movement of God is trinitarian:
IT’s three in one.
Physical, Spiritual, and Divine.
It takes our full selves to be part of this movement.
We can’t compartmentalize the movement of God to one hour or one day.
We can’t compartmentalize it into one part, one choice, one belief.
The movement of God is all of it.
In all of it’s fullness.
All of the ordinary:
Transformed into the extraordinary.
Just like all of those little ordinary moments,
Along side the big earth shattering ones,
That make us into who we are.
This is Trinity.
And this is difficult for us to grasp.
Because our entire world is about compartmentalization.
We count the minutes and hours of our days.
Dividing up time for work,
Time for family,
Time for celebrations,
And time for chores.
But the movement of God blurs and smudges the lines.
All the ways in which we divide and order it.
The Movement of God never stops.
The movement actually IS God’s full self:
Father, Son and Spirit:
Set loose in all of creation:
To breathe that extra into the ordinary.
During this late-night conversation in today’s Gospel story
Jesus invites Nicodemus to wake up,
Be “Born again”
And move beyond the lines and boundaries that the world tells him he should follow.
Jesus invites him to join the movement of God:
To be born again in flesh, water, and spirit:
In all the fullness.
Jesus is not interested in simply answering Nicodemus’ questions:
Or giving him a brief summary.
Jesus is inviting him to participate in an entirely new way of seeing and living:
A way of seeing and living that only happens with the participation of his full self:
Joining in the Movement of God:
In the life of the Trinity:
The very life of God.
And it’s hard to catch on.
It’s hard to be moved from all that we know:
This one body, this one life, our understanding of science and creation.
It takes Nicodemus some time to catch on.
He asks, “How can anyone be born after having grown old?”
And Jesus doesn’t back down.
He replies “You must be born from above.”
With these words,
Jesus calls us to move beyond our ordinary way of thinking:
Into an extraordinary:
Trinitarian way of BEING.
Jesus invites us to the place where our bodies, minds, souls and spirits meet.
Our selves, our souls, and bodies.
All of us. Each part of us: In all its fullness.
Jesus calls Nicodemus, and all of us:
To live into the realization of ALL that we are.
We are not just machines, a body moving by habit.
We are not just flesh.
God made us to be part of the Movement:
For our ordinary to be transformed into extraordinary,
Over and over again,
Becoming our full selves.
On this Trinity Sunday,
We are commissioning our healing prayer team members:
Who have committed to praying for other ordinary people:
Believing that the extraordinary power of God can transform bodies, minds and souls.
Believing that the essence of God:
Our source of life:
The father, son and holy spirit:
In the big and the small.
The ordinary and the extraordinary.
And all of it merges together,
Blurs the lines,
To make us who we are:
Transformed by God’s fullness.
On this Trinity Sunday,
May you be moved:
With your full self:
Your emotions, your mind, soul and strength:
Your selves, your, souls, and bodies:
To join the Movement of God.
And breathe in that extra that comes from the fullness of God with us:
That extra that transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Acts 2: 1-21
Psalm 104:25-35, 37
John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15 or Ezekiel 37:1-14
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable in your sight, Oh Lord my strength and my redeemer.
Fifty days after Passover, Jews celebrated the festival of Pentecost.
Originally, it celebrated the wheat harvest,
But it later became the commemoration of the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai.
As the fiftieth day of Easter, Christians maintain this festival:
Altering its focus to a celebration of the Spirit of the risen Christ in the Church.
It’s a festival day:
A party day:
And it’s often thought of as the Church’s birthday.
Like the fire and wind on Mount Sinai:
People gathered on that day of Pentecost:
From all over:
And Experienced the same fire and wind as the spirit descended upon them.
From then on:
The miraculous events, seen in the ministry of Jesus:
Occur in the Church.
Today we celebrate the fire of God’s word:
The fire of God’s spirit:
On the foreheads of the faithful.
In John’s Gospel, we hear of the Spirit bringing the TRUTH of God to the community.
It is the conclusion of the Easter Season:
And the celebration of the beginning of the church.
We hear in the Acts of the Apostles, of that first birthday:
Where there is a sort of party:
A party that encompasses all that Jesus said and taught:
Because the invitation list is insane.
Everyone is there:
Not just Jews:
There’s Galileans, Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Romans, and Arabs.
People are having such a good time, that you would think they were drunk.
But they’re not:
They just received the most incredible party favors of prophecy, visions, and dreams:
As the spirit of God descends upon them:
Just as Jesus promised.
Just as the scriptures had prophesied.
And this is the focus of Pentecost:
The fulfillment of Jesus’ promise made to his disciples before his crucifixion and resurrection:
The promise that believers will not be alone:
It’s a promise that the Spirit has descended.
That the spirit will be the link between God and the believing community:
That the spirit of God:
It’s a promise that the breath that breathes life into our very bones:
Will create, and recreate:
In the church:
In the world:
And in all of creation.
But the celebration of Pentecost sometimes gets lost:
Is sometimes forgotten:
As Christmas and Easter have become more prominent in our culture.
Yet Pentecost is just as important:
Just as significant.
Christians might feel like they have been left hanging out to dry.
Here in the present:
After Jesus has ascended:
Stuck between the past of Jesus’ historical presence,
And the Future of Jesus’ creation of a new heaven and a new earth.
We would be left with nothing in between.
But the event of Pentecost:
The Holy Spirit’s Indwelling with God’s people:
And the “birthday of the Church”
Reminds us that God continues to walk God’s people:
In nearness and in love:
And that through the power of the Holy Spirit:
Jesus continues to be present to each of us in a very real, and tangible way.
Pentecost is the realization of Jesus’ promise:
A promise that is fulfilled every time the incarnate Word comes to us:
In the scriptures, in our interactions, and in our relationships.
A promise that is fulfilled every time the bread of life comes to us in the bread of the altar.
This celebration of Pentecost reminds us that God is with us.
Notice that Pentecost is about RE-Creation:
Not creation itself.
The Holy Spirit already existed well before Pentecost:
The Holy Spirit:
The Spirit of God is that which the whole world was created.
Yet after Pentecost:
Continues to be transformed:
Re-Newed, and re-born.
So while Today, many celebrate the Birthday of the Church:
I think it’s more a celebration of the Church’s “Baptism day”
As the Church:
In a kind of baptism:
Experiences and remembers the renewal of re-creation.
As the church is baptized into both the death and the resurrection of Christ:
As all of these people gathered:
From all different places:
Feel the Spirit on their foreheads.
And actually: the gift of the spirit:
While certainly present in birth and in creation:
Really reaches its fullness at baptism.
Where one is re-created:
Marked as Christ’s own forever.
When we mark the cross on the foreheads of the newly baptized:
We create a new, intimate Pentecost:
As we say that they “have been sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism,
And marked as Christ’s own forever.”
Baptism becomes Pentecost:
Pentecost becomes baptism:
And the baptized are changed:
Just as the Church, on that long ago Pentecostal day was changed and transformed:
Drawing the people more deeply into communion with God and each other:
To the ends of the earth:
In every language.
And this is what I love about Pentecost:
That the story isn’t over:
Even after Christ is resurrected:
Even after he ascends into heaven:
The Spirit is still present, still forming us:
And all of creation groans with the labor pains.
Pains that bring forth new life.
Paul’s letter to the Romans describes this beautifully:
That the Spirit of God re-creates in us:
And in the entire cosmos:
Yet it’s also desperately intimate:
Coming to each one of us:
With “sighs too deep for words.”
And as people of the Spirit:
As the people in which the Spirit literally dwells:
It’s our task to hold onto the continual hope of that re-creation.
Paul puts it well when he says:
“For in hope we were saved.
Now hope that is seen is not hope.
For who hopes for what is seen?
But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
Paul’s words about the fruits of the spirit:
Of the Spirit’s sustaining hope:
Gives us permission to hope for something bigger:
Hope for something better:
Hope for a re-created world:
And re-created selves.
On this day of Pentecost we are pushed to dream big dreams:
Dreams for the world:
Dreams for ourselves:
To even strive for the Dream of God.
And as we’ve been talking about in the last few weeks:
There are no limitations:
Everyone is invited:
People of every nation:
Of every language:
The young and the old:
For as the Prophet Joel said:
“your young shall see visions, and your old shall dream dreams.”
On that first baptismal day of the church:
The Spirit gave everyone ability.
The Spirit made everyone visible
When before, the disciples had been in closed rooms,
Behind locked and shut doors:
The invitations were few:
The dreams were locked.
On Pentecost the Spirit blew the doors down,
And sent the disciples into the world:
To re-create the world:
To preach the good news:
To speak to all:
Young and old:
Gentile and Jew:
Egyptians and Asians.
So that everyone might hear the dream of God.
So that everyone:
Guided by the spirit would dream big dreams:
Would feel the labor pains:
As the spirit:
Intimately dwelling within:
Urges God’s beloved to dream and hope:
To dream and hope so big:
That the sighs would be too deep for words.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable in your sight Oh Lord my strength and my redeemer.
Acts 1: 15-17, 21-26
1 John 5:9-13
John 17: 6-19
“That they may be one.”
In the Gospel of John, we hear Jesus’ prayer:
The prayer that he prayed the night before he died.
Kind of an interesting reading to hear on this seventh (and final!) Sunday of Easter.
But then again: There’s a reason for that:
Because it brings us full circle.
On the night before he died,
Jesus prayed a prayer for his disciples:
A prayer for everyone who would believe in him:
A prayer for us:
A prayer for the world.
Jesus says, “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me,
So that they may be one, as we are one.”
To be one.
To be one with all people.
To put aside our differences:
To be in loving community:
To end fighting:
To end war.
This is a BIG prayer.
An astonishing prayer.
A prayer that seems almost impossible.
We might be tempted to say, “Who are you kidding, Jesus?”
“It didn’t happen in your time:
What makes you think it could ever happen in ours?”
But Jesus told his followers that they should be one in this world:
in their culture and their time.
It goes along with Jesus always reminding the disciples, and all of us:
That the Kingdom of Heaven is here –
not something that will come in the next world.
But to be one right now. Right here.
Its an echo of Jesus’ teachings on eternity:
The past, the now, the future:
All of it: In its fullness.
That they all may be one.
It’s not just about “later.
And what’s cool about Jesus:
Is that he ALWAYS talks about these things in positive statements:
As his dream for the world:
Not as a “yeah right”
Not as something rote, and un thoughtful.
It’s as if he’s saying to God:
“This is my wish: This is my dream:
That those who believe would be one: just as you and I are one.”
He says it as if he expects it to happen.
He says it as if he thinks we understand what he’s talking about.
But Jesus knows what he’s talking about.
Whether WE know what Jesus is talking about is an entirely different thing.
And maybe that’s just the thing.
Maybe we just don’t know what “unity” means
When Churches throughout the centuries have battled and split off from one another repeatedly.
That’s not being one.
When the human obsession with being right consistently puts up roadblocks against Jesus’ prayer.
That’s not being one.
But how can we even understand the image that Jesus gives us:
About our own unity as the mirror of Jesus and the father being one?
That’s pretty hard to understand.
That’s pretty hard to fully know:
It’s one of those things:
Like the peace of God which passes ALL understanding.
Beyond our comprehension.
Beyond our understanding.
But that’s no free ticket to give up.
To let the seeming impossibility of unity and one-ness make us quit.
So we have to look for the oneness.
It is our call and our duty:
To seek it in God and in each other.
And Oneness with God means being at one with all of God’s gifts:
All Cultures, peoples, nations:
And every single bit of our own human existence.
The joys and the sorrows.
The fears and the strengths.
To tear apart one bit of our gift is to put a tear in the beauty of oneness with God:
And oneness with each other.
And here’s the important part:
Being the same, is not the basis of unity.
Just like Jesus and the Father are not “the same.”
Love is the basis of unity: and nothing else.
Just like we’ve been hearing the last few weeks:
About abiding, loving, about being only one branch on the ever-living vine.
Being the same: is not unity.
When St. Paul said that there was no more male or female,
Jew or Greek.
He didn’t mean that men and women would be morphed into some other form of human being:
Or that Jews and Greeks would become one new nationality.
He meant that each of us:
In our uniqueness would look with love on all the other creatures of God.
He meant that we would see beauty in the gifts that others have,
Instead of being jealous of another’s gifts:
Or thinking that our gifts are better than someone elses.
He meant that:
All of the gifts matter:
And all of them are necessary for us to all be one.
He meant that we should join together to build the Kingdom of God:
The Kingdom of God that IS among us.
This kind of love is hard.
Our human nature makes it hard.
Our culture makes it hard.
If we take Jesus’ words seriously, we’ll hear that the outpouring love that IS God:
Is there for all of us.
In all of its different ways:
And we’ll strive to let it guide our words and actions.
And not all of us will be called to do the same things:
We need it all:
We need everyone:
We need priests:
And we need lay readers.
We need activists:
And we need people to pray silently at home.
We need teachers,
And we need listeners.
We need the young,
And we need the old.
But here’s the other hard part:
We can do this:
We can become one:
Only if we are willing to be transformed.
Only if we are willing to be changed:
Only if we are willing to listen to God:
To let God’s love pour over us,
And relinquish some of our own control:
Some of our own sense of what’s “Right.”
And This is our heritage.
This is who we are.
Those who are constantly,
At any time, at any age:
Willing to be transformed.
Willing to receive new gifts,
Willing to try something new.
For the sake of being one in THIS Kingdom:
Love and Obey
Mother’ s Day
Acts 10:44-48, 1 John 5:1-6, John 15:9-17
Let us pray: Gracious and loving God may your light guide our footsteps along the pathway of life. May your hand rest upon us and your love always enfold us, and so lead us onwards to know and love you and others better. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Welcome on this Mother’s Day. I can’t imagine a better lesson for Mother’s Day than one that begins like this: Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love . . . “If anyone loves me, they will obey . . .” That’s what Jesus is saying to us in our Gospel for today
Obedience is important to our spiritual lives. However, obedience is also an important part of helping a family run smoothly.
A professor was giving a lecture on company slogans and was asking his students if they were familiar with them.
“Joe,” he asked, “which company has the slogan, FLY THE FRIENDLY SKIES?”
Joe answered with the correct airline.
“Brenda, can you tell me which company has the slogan, DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT?”
Brenda answered quickly with the correct credit card company.
“Now John, tell me which company bears the slogan, JUST DO IT?”
“That’s easy,” John answered, “It’s my Mom.”
The shoe company surely stole their motto from someone’s Mom: “JUST DO IT?” Why? “BECAUSE I SAID SO!”
There is an undeniable link between love and obedience. We can threaten a child to be obedient. We can punish an act of willful defiance. But the only way our children will take up the values we want for them will be if they know they are connected to us by a bond of love that cannot be broken. So it is in our relationship with God.
It is important that we obey God’s commands. Let’s begin there: Obey God’s commands. That sounds obvious, but this is a lost teaching in our day. We have become a permissive society, a “do your own thing” society. The lines between right and wrong have become blurred. We make our own morality as we go along. People who say they believe in God’s commandments seem to have increasing difficulty applying those standards to their daily lives. Some people have a particularly hard time with obedience.
Tommy Nelson, in his book, The 12 Essentials of Godly Success, tells of being a chaplain of a high school football team in the 1970s. This was in Texas where football is a religion. To be a great football player in Texas means you are extra special.
Nelson says that on the team on which he served as chaplain was a young man who was the finest high school football player he has ever seen. This young man was one of only three athletes in the history of Texas to be a three time high school all-American. When he was ready to graduate, this young man had his choice of colleges. He picked a school whose previous running back was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. The question was not whether this young man would be good, but whether he himself was going to win the Heisman.
After the young man made his decision, Nelson asked the young man’s high school coach, “What do you think? Will he win the Heisman someday?”
The coach replied, “He’ll never carry the ball in college.”
Nelson was shocked. “What do you mean?” he demanded.
The coach told him this young man had a serious character flaw that would eventually disqualify him. He knew his college coaches would see it right away, and that would be the end of his career.
Well, the coach was right. The young man ended up attending four different colleges – he quit two and was kicked out of two. He finished without a degree. As the coach predicted, he never made it as a college player.
What was the character flaw that the coach saw? “He cannot submit to authority,” the coach said. “He cannot submit to his parents. He cannot submit to an employer. He cannot submit to a teacher.” The coach told Nelson, “We’ve carried him along for the sake of the ball club. But I assure you, he will not submit to his college coaches. His football career is done.”
Many of us are offended by the notion of obedience. We want to be the captain of our own ship, but obedience is an important trait of a successful life, particularly obedience to God. God is a God of abundant grace, but that does not mean God does not have expectations for us. The Scriptures are full not only of God’s promises, but also of God’s instructions for how we are to live our lives. Obedience to those instructions is vitally important.
Christ left behind his followers. He had certain expectations he wants us to meet. “If anyone loves me,” says our Lord, “they will obey my teaching . . .” In the same way that a family cannot function without some measure of discipline, we cannot serve Christ unless we exercise discipline over our spiritual lives. We are to obey Christ’s commands. We are to love our neighbor. We are to keep the Commandments. We are to help the poor. We are to welcome the stranger. We are to forgive those who wrong us, pray for those who insult us. Just because we are saved by grace does not mean there are not instructions for how we are to live. We are to obey God.
Our obedience grows out of our love for God. “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching . . .” This is not blind obedience to a heartless law. Neither is it a set of meaningless rituals that we are required to adhere to. Christ did not tell us to park our brains at the door. We are not robots. Neither are we clueless children.
Christ’s teachings were given to us out of God’s love for us. It’s appropriate on this special day that we compare God’s love to that of a mother who loves her child. Young people, you know that when your mother gives you a rule to follow, even one as bland as “Don’t sit too close to the TV . . .” or “Be sure to put a jacket on . . .” or “Be home by midnight . . .” you know down in your heart, she’s doing it out of love. You are at the very center of her world and she wants you to be safe. She wants you to be happy. She knows this is a dangerous world. There are some things that might bring us a few moments happiness that in the long run of life can spell ruin for us. She’s not really being mean. Overly protective, perhaps, but not mean. And, yes, Moms are human. They make mistakes, but 99% of the time, they make those mistakes in love. They really want your well-being.
Author, speaker and sports enthusiast Pat Williams, in his book A Lifetime of Success, gives one of the best examples I know of a mother’s love.
He tells of attending a very special Atlanta Braves’ baseball home opener on April 8, 1974. It was a night game against the Dodgers and it was a complete sellout. Williams looked around to see that, seated immediately behind him was singer Pearl Bailey. Up at the plate: the immortal Henry Aaron. On the line: Babe Ruth’s record of 714 career home runs. Aaron had tied the record and tonight he was aiming to break it.
Understand this was over 40 years ago. An African American player was about to topple the great Babe Ruth and a lot of people in the country didn’t like it. Aaron got a lot of mail that year more than 930,000 letters in all, far more than any other person in the country. Most were fan letters but about 100,000 of them were hate letters, some containing death threats.
Williams says he was on the edge of his seat when Dodgers pitcher Al Downing hurled the ball toward the plate. Aaron swung and connected. The crack of his bat echoed through the stands. The ball was gone. Home run. Babe Ruth’s record was shattered. The ballpark went nuts.
“As Aaron rounded second base,” says Williams, “a couple of teenagers both white jumped over the retaining wall and ran onto the field, chasing Aaron. For a moment, no one knew what they had in mind, but then it became clear: they were celebrating and cheering Aaron on. As Aaron crossed the plate, the dugout emptied as the Braves streamed onto the field to surround him, cheering and whooping it up. But amid all those ballplayers around Aaron was a short, sixty-eight year old black woman. She latched onto Aaron and wouldn’t let go of him.
“Henry Aaron turned and said to her, ‘Mom! What are you doing here?’
“‘Baby,’ said the mother of the new home run king, ‘if they’re gonna get you,’ (thinking of the death threats Aaron had received) ‘they’ve gotta get me first!’”
That is love only a mother could have for her child. “If they’re gonna get you, they’ve gotta get me first!” It is, however, only a pale reflection of the love God has for each of us. Do you really think that God would give us any command that was not for our best good? “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him . . .”
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, give us the grace to bring up our children in the discipline and nurture of the Lord. Help us all to be an example of virtue. Give our children grace and gifts of the Spirit so they will profit from the guidance we give them. This we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable in your sight, Oh Lord our strength and our redeemer.
Acts 8: 26-40, Psalm 22: 24-30, 1 John 4: 7-21, Gospel: John 15: 1-8
In a normal week,
I would be WAITING for this week to come up in the lectionary.
Today’s readings are a preacher’s dream.
The words about abiding, and loving are beautifully poetic to say the least.
The image of the vine and the branches is almost a sermon in itself.
It’s also possible that I’m biased,
because today’s lesson from First John is my all-time favorite piece of scripture which tells us that “We love, because God first loved us.”
I think I could write a hundred sermons on today’s texts:
Which is really unfair,
Because there are other days where its hard to come up with anything!
And on top of ALL of it:
We are blessed with the celebration of baptism today.
Today, we will welcome Hazel into the family of God.
It’s a significant and important day for her, and for her family.
Hazel will receive a certificate:
(which you need to keep, in case she wants to be a priest some day) HA!
And her name will be added into the parish register:
A book that has the names and dates of many other baptisms.
(as a matter of fact, her brother Rhett, was the last baptism recorded).
And I bring up the parish register because a baptism isn’t an individual thing.
Today’s celebration is not just about Hazel.
It’s a celebration for all of us:
Because baptism is about family.
About God’s Family:
Which includes every single one of us.
Throughout the book of First John, John writes to the church,
And continuously calls them Beloved.
We are God’s children now.”
All of us.
All of us, are the branches on the vine.
Jesus doesn’t say, I am the vine, you are a branch.
He says, “I am the vine:
You are the branchES”
There’s one vine:
With many branches:
Our baptisms unite us to each other.
Not just those of us who are physically present:
But ALL baptized people:
All the baptisms recorded in all the parish registers,
All baptized people,
Going all the way back to the first disciples:
All of us together:
The family of God.
Our baptisms make us one family: and each of us,
Are witnesses of that family.
Soon: at the baptism:
I’ll turn to all of you:
And ask if you who witness these vows,
Will do all in your power to support Hazel in her life in Christ.
And (I hope) you will LOUDLY respond:
When we witness a baptism we don’t just “see it take place.”
We also promise that we will accept our responsibility to love, support, and care for the baptized through the whole of their lives.
Baptism requires us to acknowledge our connection to one another because we are brothers and sisters in God’s family.
Witnesses to each other.
As John would (AND DID) say:
We are God’s children now.
Baptism is a formal commitment:
One that the church keeps record and proof of.
But we must remember that our baptisms are not just a commitment to God:
But a commitment that we make to each other:
To walk with each other:
To help each other:
To care for each other:
We are God’s children now.
After we commit to witnessing Hazel’s baptism,
We will renew our baptismal covenant.
(which is actually kind of a weird thing to call it.)
Because the baptism itself is the covenant.
The questions in the baptismal covenant remind us of how we must respond to what God has already done in baptism.
Earlier in the letter, John says to the church:
“Beloved, we are God’s children now.
What we will be has not yet been revealed.
What we DO know is this:
When he is revealed, we will be like him.”
RIGHT NOW: We are God’s children.
God has ALREADY done this.
What we will be in the future:
In our life after this life, is unknown;
But what we DO Know, is that we will one day be like Jesus.
And the questions in the baptismal covenant:
Push us to become more like Jesus.
They remind us,
How to be WITNESSES of God’s love in the world.
Will you Continue in the apostles teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread and in the prayers?
Will you persevere in resisting evil, and whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being?
Doing our best to do these things, we live lives of witness:
We become more like Jesus.
It’s our response to the gift that God has already given us:
The gift of adoption as God’s children.
We ARE God’s Children.
And because of that,
We must respond.
BECAUSE we are God’s children:
We MUST seek Christ in all people,
BECAUSE we are God’s children,
We must love our neighbors as ourselves.
BECAUSE we are God’s children,
We must strive for justice, peace, and dignity for every human being.
BECAUSE we are God’s children,
We must name our mistakes and persevere in not repeating them.
BECAUSE we are God’s children:
We strive to be a witness to Jesus:
And to become more like him.
We can’t do it alone.
With every single question,
We respond, “I will, with God’s help.”
And with every single question,
We respond together:
Not as individuals:
But the whole chorus of God’s family.
And this family can never be broken.
The prayer book tells us that
“The Bond which God establishes in Baptism is indissoluble.”
Indissoluble: As in Completely UNABLE to be destroyed. Ever.
The bond of baptism can never be broken.
No matter what.
My favorite part of baptism is at the very end:
After we pour water on Hazel’s head,
I’ll say some of the most sacred, significant, and beautiful words that any priest ever says:
I’ll tell her that she is sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.
We are God’s children now.
With God’s help,
The help of each other,
The help of all the baptized:
Those who came before us,
And those who came after.
We are already God’s children.
Now are you ready to be a witness?
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