Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Sermon: January 8 (1 Epiphany)

O God of grace, by the power of the Holy Spirit you have given us new life in the waters of baptism; strengthen us to live in righteousness and true holiness, that we may grow into the likeness of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Water is life.

It was the slogan used by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and others who protested a pipeline being built on treaty land that also would have gone under a lake that supplies water to the Sioux Tribe. They understood what they were fighting for, water is life & for many it is sacred.

For Christians, our connection to water is two fold. “Water is the blood of creation. Our own bodies are 80% water. Water is also the element of baptism.” (Vigen Guroian)

Creation & Baptism. Without water we would not have life. Without water, we wouldn’t be baptized like Jesus. Baptized into a community of faith, for it is the waters of baptism that makes us a Christian.

“There is one Body and one Spirit; There is one hope in God's call to us. One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism; One God and Father of all.”

These words from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (chapter 4), remind us that whoever we are, wherever we were baptized, we were all baptized into one body that is Christ’s, and it is by God’s Spirit that we are sealed in baptism and made Christ’s own forever.

And just as Jesus heard the words after his baptism, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” This is also true of us. That each of us, you and I, are also beloved by God, baptized into Jesus life, death and resurrection.

And it’s important that we remember our baptism, give thanks that we are beloved too and show it in our lives! Martin Luther once said that the Christian life was nothing less than a daily baptism. Our relationship with our creator as marked in baptism has implications for how we live and how we work it out every day. For after the baptism of Jesus, he went on his way to live out his ministry and its true for us too, for that is our discipleship with Jesus.

Let me use this story, one of my favorites, to illustrate this…

Two friends are having lunch at a local restaurant when one woman is distracted by a scene two tables over.

"What's the matter?" her friend asks.

"See that couple over there? We're sharing the same waiter except they're being so demanding that he barely has time for anyone else. Look at how they turn up their noses at everything he brings them."

"Maybe their order just isn't to their liking."

"No, that's not it at all. I was a waitress in college and I know the game. They're just trying to berate that kid into a free lunch."

Just then, they watch as the manager walks over to the table and stands next to the waiter. The couple complains loudly about the food and service. The manager takes the check from the waiter and motions him away.
"See what I mean?" the first woman says.

The embarrassed waiter comes over to the women's table. "Is there anything else I can get you?" he asks, his eyes downcast as he places the check on the table between the two women.

The former waitress snatches the check before her friend can even look at it and pulls out several bills from her purse. She hands everything to the waiter.

"Keep the change."

"But ma'am, that's . . ."

She takes the young man's hand and squeezes it. She looks him in the eye and says, "I know the kind of afternoon you're having. You're a terrific waiter. And you've earned every dime of this. So don't argue with an old lady who's been there." [From The Other Ninety Percent by Robert K. Cooper.]

It is a simple act of generosity, a simple act of love. And when we become vehicles of God's love, when we become the means for manifesting God's presence in our world to others, we live out of our baptism; of that knowledge that we too are God’s beloved and God is pleased with us.

So it comes to us, to remember that we are beloved by God and in turn remind others, just as the old lady did to the young waiter one afternoon. For it is our vocation, our calling as the baptized, to live into what Christ has done for us and to live that in this world.

As William Stringfellow put it in his first book:

“Thus the vocation of the baptized person is a simple thing: it is to love from day to day, whatever that day brings, in this extraordinary unity, in this reconciliation with all people and all things, in this knowledge that death has no more power, in this truth of the Resurrection. It does not really matter what exactly a Christian does from day to day. What matters is that in whatever the Christian does it is done in honor of the triumph of Christ over death and, therefore, in honor of his or her own life, given by God and restored to each in Christ, and in honor of the life into which all people and all things are called. The only thing that really matters is to live in Christ instead of death.” (from Instead of Death)

Today at 10:15 AM, 3 of our young ones will be baptized. They will be baptized into the water that is life and in time they will join us in living out of our baptism, but for now, it is all of us gathered here, their family, friends and this praying and caring community who will witness to them the great love of God by what we do in this world.

May we remember our baptism this day,
remember that we too are beloved,
and share that with our world, so that we may live in Christ instead of death. Amen.

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