Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sermon: 1 Epiphany

“When we touch our baptism, we touch our past, but also our present and our future. Whenever and however our baptism took place and however much or little regard has been paid to it since, it is a sign in our flesh of the enduring love of God.” (Daniel Stevick)

On this day when we celebrate the baptism of Jesus, we also remember our own baptism (even if it is what our parents said or simply a date) as we look forward to Luke’s baptism this morning, we think about the baptisms that have taken place here for 202 years, for indeed we touch our past, present and future in baptism and God is in the midst of it all.

Luke is also touching the past for he is wearing his great grandfather’s baptismal gown, Bob wore it 80 years ago and he is wearing his godmother’s cross (and godfather's too) she wore at her christening. Both connect him with the past as he in the present will receive baptism in our font and live that baptism out in his future.

The Past, Present & Future are all wrapped together in baptism. When we think of the past…

We remember that Jesus was baptized like we were. As we imagine the scene with John the Baptist standing near the river, wearing camel’s hair, people are flocking to him, to confess their sins. Several Jewish groups of that time observed some type of ritual baptism, and yet John knows that what he does, his proclamations, his baptisms, are just a beginning, they anticipate the one who is to come, the messiah. His baptism by water for repentance will become the baptism by the Spirit. John prepares the way of the Lord much like his ancestors did from Abraham and Sarah to Moses and Miriam to David and Jeremiah to John the Baptist.

It all comes to fruition when Jesus of Nazareth comes and all that John had anticipated happens; Jesus is baptized. And it is Jesus who sees the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descending like a dove upon him and a voice that proclaims, “You are my son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11) It is God’s Spirit who descends that day, anoints Jesus for the mission and ministry that would encompass his life for the rest of his time on earth. And then there is no time to relish in the moment, for then that same Spirit sends Jesus away from his baptism to go and do.

In our own day (present), baptism is our ritual of initiation into God’s community the Church. As our rite says, “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.” Today, Luke Michael Rosati will be baptized into the household of God. I suspect there will be many more around the world who will be baptized on this day, and God will hear their names presented and it is God who will act by sending the Holy Spirit.

His baptism reminds me that as I looked at the website for oversees chaplains, I saw a wonderful picture of a chaplain in water among the reeds baptizing one of our soldiers in Iraq. This scene from a couple of years ago reminds us that baptism happens in a sacred spot that generations have come to worship in, and happens in the desert in a small body of water in the midst of war. And no matter where that baptism takes place, it is that baptism that propels us into the future.

For the Spirit of God is also sent to rests on us, reminding us that nothing will ever separate us from the love of God. And what we do out of that love, out of being baptized into the household of God is to “confess the faith of Christ crucified and proclaim his resurrection.” Or in the words of St. Francis, we are called to “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”

For it is that Spirit that calls us to live out our baptismal lives in this world, where so many people are in need one way or another; helping feed the hungry, soothe the suffering, giving love and hope to those who have neither…

In time Luke will do just that, but for now, it is all of us gathered here, his family, friends and this praying and caring community witnessing to the great love of God by what we do in this world. Or as Mother Teresa put it, “It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving.” Amen.

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