Tag Archives: Baptism

The 2nd Sunday after Pentecost: A Sermon

Readings (Track 1)

Today we are baptizing Eliza, so it’s not a day for a long sermon. Nevertheless, each of our readings underscores something important about this baptism, and that’s worth noticing.

From the letter to the Galatians: “for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.” Today happens to be Father’s Day; today we’re celebrating Father’s Day on steroids: in baptism we are adopted as God’s children. After herbaptism Eliza has the privilege of calling God ‘Father’. She has a new family, with all that comes with living with a new family.

Adopted as God’s children. In the Thanksgiving over the Water we pray that “those who here are cleansed from sin and born again may continue for ever in the risen life of Jesus Christ our Savior.” Part of what’s at stake is shown by our Gospel reading. Sin is not simply something we do; it’s something that enslaves us, dehumanizes us. So, in the questions for the candidates “Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?” The possessed man enters the story in a very bad way; after meeting Jesus, “clothed and in his right mind.” Baptism gives us the possibility of living humanly.

In today’s psalms you may have noticed the refrain:

Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul?
and why are you so disquieted within me?
Put your trust in God;
for I will yet give thanks to him,
who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

Baptism heightens the tension between the way things are and the way things are supposed to be, the way God wants them to be, the way to which God will ultimately restore them. C. S. Lewis put it bluntly:

“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”[1]

Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, used to pray “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.” Heartbreak is part of the baptismal package, which—please God—can result in what Representative John Lewis used to call “good trouble.” Here’s a bit of John Lewis:

“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” [2]

“Sea of despair:” not a bad description of Elijah’s situation in our first reading: “I alone am left.” In Elijah’s day the problem was Baal, a religious problem, but equally a political problem, because Baal was another of those gods who automatically underwrote the status quo, with all the oppression and violence this entailed. And Elijah had caused “good trouble.” Among all the things we might notice in this reading, there’s God’s parting statement: “Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” Elijah, know it or not, you have company. Eliza, know it or not, you have company, more than you can imagine, a very large and diverse family

After the baptism we pray “Sustain her, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit. Give her an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works.” Eliza, we look forward to God’s response to that prayer, and to the ways that your response to God’s response will enrich us all. Amen.

[1] From “Answers to questions on Christianity,” reprinted in God in the Dock.

[2] https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/07/18/rep-john-lewis-most-memorable-quotes-get-good-trouble/5464148002/ (accessed 6/13/2022).

Re the Daily Office Readings June 27 Anno Domini 2020

Holy Trinity, Thornhill, California

The Readings: Numbers 20:14-29; Romans 6:1-11; Matthew 21:1-11

Today’s reading from Romans is an invitation to reflect on our own baptism. Recall the Celebrant’s prayer:

“We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water. Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation. Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt into the land of promise. In it your Son Jesus received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.

“We thank you, Father, for the water of Baptism. In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit. Therefore in joyful obedience to your Son, we bring into his fellowship those who come to him in faith, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

“Now sanctify this water, we pray you, by the power of your Holy Spirit, that those who here are cleansed from sin and born again may continue for ever in the risen life of Jesus Christ our Savior.

“To him, to you, and to the Holy Spirit, be all honor and glory, now and for ever” (BCP 306-307).

This is New Exodus language, signaling the start of a journey to life in its fulness through an indissoluble bond (BCP 298) with Jesus. It mirrors what Paul received; what Paul wrote. The Greek language lets you tack a preposition onto the front of a verb, and Paul does this repeatedly with ‘sun’ (‘with’, as in ‘synapse’, ‘synchronic’, ‘syntax’, etc.): “buried with him” (v.4), “united with him” (v.5), “crucified with him” (v.6), “live with him” (v.8).

As Paul’s argument makes clear, this does not erase my agency. But I’m no longer in Egypt. I don’t have to listen to Pharaoh. And if I am not baptized, what am I waiting for?