Sermon: Heritage Sunday

The podcast is available here.

Boudreaux stumbles across a baptismal service on Sunday afternoon down by the river.

He proceeds to walk into the water and stand next to the preacher. The minister notices him and says, “Mister, are you ready to find Jesus?”

Boudreaux looks back and says, “Yes, preacher, I sure am.”

The minister dunks him under the water and pulls him right back up.
“Have you found Jesus?” the preacher asks. “Nooo, I didn’t!” said Boudreaux.

The preacher then dunks him under for quite a bit longer, brings him up, and says, “Now, brother, have you found Jesus?”

“Noooo, I have not, Reverend.”

The preacher, in disgust, holds Boudreaux under for at least 30 seconds this time, brings him out of the water, and says in a harsh tone, “My God, man, have you found Jesus yet?”

Boudreaux wipes his eyes and says to the preacher, “Are you sure this is where he fell in?”

A long time ago, I lost track of the number of funerals that I have performed, but I would be very surprised, if over the course of my career, I have performed more than six weddings. In the time leading up to the wedding, I always have a little talk with the happy couple about their selection of best man and maid of honor. I don’t know that any of them have taken my advice, but it goes like this: don’t ask your drinking buddy or best girlfriend who agrees with everything you say or do to fill this position. That’s not who you want. Instead, you want someone who is not afraid to call you out and tell you when you are messing up. Why? Say you choose your drinking buddy. Imagine the scene:

“Dude, the ol’ ball and chain is really harassing me.”

“Dude, what for.”

“She thinks I should come home after work instead of coming out for a few beers. I’m normally home pretty early.”

“Dude, I told ya not to marry her. You really gonna take that? You need to put her in her place.”

Now say you chose someone who would call you out:

“Dude, the ol’ ball and chain is really harassing me.”

“Dude, what for.”

“She thinks I should come home after work instead of going out for a few beers. I’m normally home pretty early.”

“You know what you should do?”

“No… do tell.”

“You should get your happy behind off that bar stool and go home. Your wife is right. When you married her, you took on the responsibility of being a faithful husband to your wife and father to your children.”

By signing your wedding certificate, the maid of honor and best man are standing as witnesses to the vows you are making. By standing next to you in the church, they are agreeing to assist you in keeping those vows. The Godparents at a baptism are essentially signing on for the same duty, but it goes a bit further for them. Listen to these words that are spoken to the Godparents during this 1892 liturgy:

“DEARLY beloved, ye have brought this Child here to be baptized; ye have prayed that our Lord Jesus Christ would vouchsafe to receive him, to release him from sin, to sanctify him with the Holy Ghost, to give him the kingdom of heaven, and everlasting life. Ye have heard also that our Lord Jesus Christ hath promised in his Gospel to grant all those things that ye have prayed for: which promise he, for his part, will most surely keep and perform.

“Wherefore after this promise made by Christ, this Infant must also faithfully, for his part, promise by you that are his sureties (until he come of age to take it upon himself) that he will renounce the devil and all his works, and constantly believe God’s holy Word, and obediently keep his commandments.”

The Godparents are becoming surety for the one to be baptized. In this context, Merriam-Webster defines surety as, “One who has become legally liable for the debt, default, or failure in duty of another.” By standing up for Sully, the Godparents are taking upon themselves the debt of Sully’s life before God until he is of an age to take that burden upon himself. That is quite a remarkable spiritual responsibility. It says, “If you, Sully, fail in your life with Christ, then I will be the one who takes on that debt and the one responsible for that failure.”

Ol’ Boudreaux may have just stumbled into his baptism and is probably still looking for Jesus at the bottom of a river, but what we do here today is very intentional, with full knowledge of our actions. And if I were a Godparent, I might be looking for an exit before I took this one on, but here’s the good news, the God news: a person baptized is not baptized into the faith alone. A person baptized is baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus and also into the Body of Christ.

By standing next to Sully at his baptism, the Godparents act as surety for his life before God, but all of you gathered here this day and all those that are baptized into the faith of Christ are also surety for Sully before God. We are all Godparents to him and to one another. Why? Because we are the Body of Christ. St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

There is a question during the baptism in our current Book of Common Prayer that is not included in the 1892 service: “Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support this person in his life in Christ.” The answer: “We will.” When you were baptized, a congregation stood and took that vow upon themselves. They each vowed to be surety for you. So today, as we baptize Sully, remember the vows that you are all taking for him, but also the vows that were taken for you, and the responsibility that you have as members of the Body of Christ, as “Godparents” to one another.

Let us pray: O Lord Jesus Christ, You said to Your Apostles: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you.” Look not upon our sins, but upon the faith of Your Church, and grant to her that peace and unity which are agreeable to Your will, who live and are King and God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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