Sermon: The Baptism of Our Lord RCL C – “Four Friends”

The podcast is available here.


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The fella gets his first computer.  Unpacks it, turns it on… all is well.  Then the problems begin to arise.  Eventually he is stuck and he calls customer service.  The problem: it is no longer working.  Mouse: dead.  Screen: dead.  The customer service agent walks him through it: “Turn it off and back on again.”  Nothing.  Finally, the agent wants to see if the thing is even plugged in, but the customer says he can’t see the outlet properly.  The agent suggest looking at it from another angle.  We’ll pick up the conversation from there:

Customer: “Oh, it’s not because I don’t have the right angle, it’s because it’s dark.” 

Support: “Dark? 

Customer: “Yes, the office light is off, and the only light I have is coming in from the window.” 

Support: “Well, turn on the office light then.” 

Customer: “I can’t.” 

Support: “No? Why not?” 

Customer: “Because there’s a power outage.” 

Support: “A power… A power outage? Aha! Okay, we’ve got it licked now. Do you still have the boxes and manuals and packing stuff your computer came in?” 

Customer: “Well, yes, I keep them in the closet.” 

Support: “Good! Go get them, and unplug your system and pack it up just like it was when you got it. Then take it back to the store you bought it from.” 

Customer: “Really? Is it that bad?” 

Support: “Yes, I’m afraid it is.” 

Customer: “Well, all right then, I suppose. What do I tell them?” 

Support: “Tell them you’re too stupid to own a computer.” 

For my money, there is Siri: “Hey Siri: What is ….?”  And if she can’t answer it, there is Youtube and Google, because 99.9% of the time, someone has already asked your question and in many cases, if you’ll spend a few minutes searching, you’ll discover that a true expert has answered your specific question and posted that answer for all to benefit.

Other times, we go seeking out the help we need from individuals, whether it be from a doctor, the police, and even times when we don’t necessarily think we are asking for help.  Consider the grocery store.  We go to the grocery store and see it as a service being provided and we choose the store we want based on the level of service we receive or want.  But by going to a grocery, we are asking for help, because there are very few of us who know anything about growing food or raising animals.  By going to a grocery, we are asking the grocer to help us to acquire food from those who produce it.  On and on it goes.  We may like to believe that we are independent, but we live in a society where we truly need one another’s help in order to survive.

We also live in a society where those who are unable to help themselves can receive assistance from others.  And may I brag on you all for a minute: as part of our Community Tithe, we gave $4,500 to our neighbors at Our Daily Bread to assist them with a new floor.  They serve up to 5,000 meals a month to those in need.  Well done!  Like Our Daily Bread, there are services being offered throughout our community to assist those in need, and our church and many of you help make those services available.  In doing so, we follow Jesus teaching to love and to serve.  As Thomas Merton said (I believe I’ve shared this one with you before): “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy.”  We don’t say, “You’re too stupid to own a computer… to have what you need, instead, we love and we serve.

Think of that incident when Jesus was in a house teaching.  Everyone wanted to hear him and the room was packed with no way in or out.  However, four friends brought their buddy, a paralytic, to see Jesus in hopes that Jesus would heal him, but because of the great crowd, they could not get in.  From the Gospel of Luke: Then behold, men brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed, whom they sought to bring in and lay before Him.  And when they could not find how they might bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the housetop and let him down with his bed through the tiling into the midst before Jesus.  When He saw their faith, He said to him, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”

The four friends carried their buddy up on the roof, tore through the tile roof, and then lowered their friend down to Jesus.  We know the story from there: Jesus forgives the man’s sins and heals his paralysis.  Today, when we see someone in need we will in most cases assist them, but in the time of Jesus and before, someone who was paralyzed, poor, sick, in need was judged.  In Merton’s words, they were deemed unworthy, because their paralysis, poverty, sickness, whatever, was not due to circumstances, but to sin.  If you are paralyzed, you are receiving the reward of your sins.  Think of Job: his three friends that came to him never for once thought that Job had not sinned.  They kept telling him to repent and then the Lord would restore him.  Same system applies to the paralytic, he was a sinner and his paralysis was a direct result of his sins, but then… he had four friends.

He had four friends that looked past his paralysis, his sins, his issues and brought him to the one person they believed could help him: Jesus.  They carried him to the roof and lowered him down.  Now here is one of those amazing bits of this story that we often miss: Scripture then says, When He saw their faith, He said to him, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”  The man’s sins were forgiven and he was healed, not because of his faith, but because of his friends faith.  When He saw their faith (the four friends faith), He said to him (to the paralytic), “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”  The man was forgiven and healed because of the faith of his friends.

Today, the First Sunday after the Epiphany, we always read about and celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord.  In doing so, even though we may not have any baptisms, we renew our Baptismal Covenant, which we will be doing in a few minutes (or half an hour, depending on how long this sermon is).  We do this as a reminder to ourselves and to one another of what we as God’s people are called to.  However, there is one question that we are asked at a Baptism that we are not asked when we renew our vows.  It is only implied.  It follows after the person to be baptized or the Godparents have been asked if they renounce Satan and turn to Christ.  Then, the priest turns to the congregation, to you and asks: “Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support this person in their life in Christ?”  Your response: “We will.”  What are you vowing to when you say, “We will”?  You are vowing to be the four friends of the person being baptized.  You are vowing that you will be the ones who will in faith bring this person to Jesus, you will be the ones who lower them into the waters of baptism, just as the four friend lowered the paralytic through the roof, and you will be the ones who place them before Jesus so that they may encounter Him, have their sins forgiven, and be healed.

Today, as you renew your Baptismal Covenant, I want you to remember what you have vowed to God for yourself, but I also want you to consider those around you—and even those who have not yet come to faith in Christ that you may bring to Him—I want you to consider them all and how you might fulfill your vows towards them.  How you might be their four friends.

Let us pray: 
Father in Heaven, 
ever-living source of all that is good, 
keep us faithful in serving You. 
Help us to drink of Christ’s Truth, 
and fill our hearts with His Love 
so that we may serve You in faith 
and love and reach eternal life.
In the Sacrament of the Eucharist 
You give us the joy of sharing Your Life. 
Keep us in Your presence. 
Let us never be separated from You
and help us to do Your Will.
Amen.

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