- The nativity and the visitation of the Magi
- At the dedication with Simeon and Anna
- Found Jesus in the temple
- Present at the first miracle
- At the foot of the Cross with John
Sermon: Proper 12 RCL C – "Baptizing them…"
As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.
Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.
This Sunday we Baptize Gabrielle.
Our reading from Hosea began, When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take for yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD.” I read that for our first reading and thought, “I could preach from that,” but then decided that maybe I couldn’t. I wouldn’t know where to start. So…
The young son of a Baptist minister was in church one morning when he saw for the first time baptism by immersion. He was greatly interested in it, and the next morning proceeded to baptize his three cats in the bathtub.
The youngest kitten bore it very well, and so did the younger cat, but the old family tomcat rebelled.
The old feline struggled with the boy, clawed and tore his skin, and finally got away. With considerable effort the boy caught the old tom again and proceeded with the “ceremony.”
But the cat acted worse than ever, clawing and spitting, and scratching the boy’s face.
Finally, after barely getting the cat splattered with water, he dropped him on the floor in disgust and said: “Fine, be an Episcopalian if you want to!”
Folks have been arguing about baptism since day one. At first they argued about who baptized who. Later, came all the arguments about “how” a person was to be baptized: full immersion, in a tub, in a river or just a sprinkling. And then they argued over whether a person should be baptized as an adult or baby. On and on the arguments have gone.
Several years ago a church member wrote, “the church I belong to is torn in a fierce dispute. One section says that baptism is IN the name of the Father and the other that it is INTO the name of the Father.” He says, “I belong to one of these parties. I feel most strongly about it. I would die for it in fact, but I forget which it is!”
We all have a tendency to make things a lot more complicated than they need to be, but the truth is, it’s not about what we think. It’s about God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – and it is about what He is doing.
So, what is God doing in Baptism? There are three things that St. Paul in his writings makes very clear. First, God through our Baptism is cleansing us from the defilement of sin. Second, He is creating a mystical union between the baptized and Christ. And third, He is incorporating the baptized into the Church, the body of Christ. I can assure you that not even the raging waters of the Mississippi river could accomplish any of this unless God Himself is involved.
Archbishop Michael Ramsey wrote, “Baptism is the first significant fact about a Christian. It declares that the beginning of a man’s Christianity is not what he feels and experiences, but what God in Christ had done for him.” Which, as we said, includes forgiveness of sins, mystical union with Christ and incorporation into the Church. Paul summarized those points in his letter to the Colossians which we read, “When you were buried with Christ in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God who raised Him from the dead.” When we are baptized, when we go under the water, it is symbolizing our death – death to the old self. When we rise back out of the water, it is symbolizing our rising again to new life – the new life in Christ Jesus. The water is a symbol and it is pointing to the reality which God is accomplishing in us – new birth – a resurrected life in Jesus Christ.
Paul confirms this all in his letter to the Romans, “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
The only specific instruction we have with regard to baptism comes from Jesus himself. He says, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” As long as we follow the instructions of Jesus, I honestly don’t think God cares about “How” we go about it, immersion or sprinkling, child or adult. I believe God’s primary concern is that we are obedient and to fail to be baptized, in whichever form, is to fail to be obedient to God.
God does not care about the “How” of our baptism as long as it is in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but he does care that we as his children, through our Baptism or the renewal of our Baptismal Covenant, publicly acknowledge Him as our Lord. He cares about the fact that we as adults solemnly vow, that with his help, we will assist in the raising up all children in our charge into the knowledge and love of Him. And, finally, he cares that we keep all other aspects of the covenant that are there to draw us and others closer to Him.
With regards to all the arguments, in the words of St. Paul to Timothy, “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.” Which means that we are to focus on what it is we are saying or have said in the Baptismal Covenant. They are not empty words; therefore, we should not be making empty promises as we say them. We must focus on what God is doing in our life and in the life of the one baptized. At that point, maybe.. MAYBE.. when we get all this right we can then turn our attention to the foolish and stupid arguments, but for now, we have a long ways to go, so let us keep our focus where it belongs.
August 2013 Voice of the Patron Newsletter
Sermon: Benedict of Nursia
to your master’s precepts,
and incline the ear of your heart
Receive willingly and carry out effectively
your loving father’s advice,
that by the labor of obedience
you may return to Him
from whom you had departed by the sloth of disobedience.
July 2013 Voice of the Patron
Meditation: Proper VI RCL C – "Do you see?"
One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him– that she is a sinner.” Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “Speak.” “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.
Brennan Manning – a Roman Catholic priest – tells the story of the time during the 70’s that he was living in a monastery in New York. It seems that while living there he had numerous millionaire friends who enjoyed his company and would invite him out. He recalls on one occasion being invited to a swank restaurant and a Broadway play. During the intermission, he and his friends went out for some fresh air and engaged in a rather highbrow conversation regarding the play.
June 2013 Voice of the Patron Newsletter
Sermon: Pentecost V RCL C – "Do not weep!"
Soon after healing the centurion’s slave, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has looked favorably on his people!” This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.
Walking up to a department store’s fabric counter, an attractive young woman said, “I want to buy this material for a new dress. How much does it cost?”… “Only one kiss per yard,” replied the smirking male clerk…. Not to be taken back by the harassment, the woman said, “That’s fine! I’ll take ten yards.”… With expectation and anticipation written all over his face, the clerk hurriedly measured out and wrapped the cloth, then held it out teasingly, leaning forward to receive his “payment.”… The woman snapped up the package and pointed to a little old man standing beside her. “Grandpa will pay the bill,” she smiled.
I suppose we all experience disappointment to one degree or another everyday… it might be something as trivial as not getting what we ordered at a restaurant.. or something more serious such as a setback at work or bad news from the Doctor.. or even disappointment in another person…
Sermon: Pentecost IV RCL C – "Through Faith"
After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.” And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, `Go,’ and he goes, and to another, `Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, `Do this,’ and the slave does it.” When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.
The Greek God Dionysius found his old schoolmaster and foster father, the Satyr Silenus, missing. It seems that the old satyr had been drinking wine and had wandered away drunk, later to be found by some Phrygian peasants, who carried him to their king, where he promptly proceeded to pass out in the king’s rose garden. Well.. turns out that the king recognized him and treated him hospitably, entertaining him for ten days and nights with politeness while Satyr entertained the king and his friends with stories and songs. On the eleventh day, the king brought the Satyr back to Dionysus in Lydia and for a reward.. Dionysus offered the king his choice of whatever reward he wished for. The King.. asked that whatever he might touch should be changed into gold.
We can find ourselves in the same place… I ain’t ever found peace.. I’ve never found happiness… Why?.. because we lack the humility and we fail to give the time necessary to pursue the one thing that will bring true happiness. Not a momentary happiness that fades with the spark of a new challenge or pursuit, but a happiness… a joy.. that endures even through the most intense of storms… a joy that comes only from God.