12th Sunday after Pentecost, 2016

12th Sunday after Pentecost, year C, (preached 8/7/16)

first reading:  Genesis 15:1-6

Psalm 33:12-22

second reading:  Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

gospel reading:  Luke 12:32-40

Note:  today in worship we celebrated the sacrament of Holy Baptism, so my sermon focused on that.  I have used only the first initial of the child’s name to respect the family’s privacy.

IMG_2361Today I get to do one of my all-time favorite things as a pastor – preside over the sacrament of Holy Baptism.

It is a beautiful and wondrous, amazing and mysterious thing we do today as “S” becomes a member of the body of Christ, and our brother.

Baptism is one of the most important gifts that God has given us.  It marks the beginning of our journey of faith, our life as a disciple, but it is also so much more.  As “S” receives this sacrament today, it’s a perfect time to reflect upon our own baptisms, and what it means in our life day to day.  And if we’re not baptized, we perhaps have the chance to learn about it for the first time.

First of all, Baptism is a covenant – a promise of faith – that God makes with us through Jesus.  In Holy Baptism we are claimed by God as God’s own child, we are marked with the cross, and named by God.

From now on “S” will have a new name.  A name that comes before anything anyone on earth will ever call him – and that name is “Christian.”  This baptism, along with the name “Christian” is not something that has worldly value.  It’s not something the world sees – it’s not something you can buy or sell – but it is worth more than ANY thing.

As Jesus says in our gospel reading today, “Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.”

There are no guarantees in this life.  Everything is transitory.  Wealth comes and goes.  Success comes and goes.  Happiness comes and goes.  Relationships come and go.  Health changes.  We face sickness. We confront death.  Life is fragile and our bodies and spirits can be broken.

Baptism is an eternal gift that never goes bad, never expires, never leaves.

You know why?  Because Baptism is God’s gift and promise to us – and God doesn’t take back gifts or break promises. We may walk away from our baptism, we may forget about it, but that doesn’t mean God takes it back – it’s ALWAYS ours for the claiming and re-claiming.

In fact that’s what we do every time we seek God’s forgiveness for our sins.  That’s what we do every time we confess – remember our baptism.  Because forgiveness is the main gift and promise that God gives us in Holy Baptism.

IMG_2362In this sacrament that “S” will receive in just a few minutes, we all receive three gifts:  forgiveness of sins, redemption from death and the devil, and eternal salvation.  So easy to say – one simple sentence with three ideas – but a lifetime’s worth of working out.

Because we need forgiveness every day.  At least I do – often repeatedly throughout the day!  None of us are perfect – as we say in our opening confession – we sin in thought, word and deed – in things we’ve done and in things we’ve left undone.

But through Jesus, we don’t have to worry about being perfect.  We don’t have to worry about being “good enough” for God to love us.  God loves us just as we are, imperfect as we are, and forgives us just as we are.  And this forgiveness we receive from Jesus is our redemption not just in little things, but from the biggest things we face – death and evil.

Each one of us here knows the power of death.  We have all been touched by it.  We have all grieved; no person is exempt from that.  But through Jesus’ death AND RESURRECTION, the power of death is defeated for us.  Jesus’ life is stronger than death.  Death does not have the last word for us.

And we know the power of evil too.  We have seen too much of it, even recently.  But Jesus overcomes that too – the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.*

It doesn’t mean those things don’t exist.  What our baptism means, again, is that death and evil doe NOT have the last word – JESUS does.  And Jesus is LOVE and LIGHT.

And Jesus is also eternal.  The LAST word for all of us is eternal life WITH Jesus in the place he has prepared for us.

Jesus loves me.  Jesus loves each and every one of YOU here.  He is not some angry vengeful God come with a checklist – he is a loving God who stretched out his arms in love and gave his life so that we can live.  Every time we ask God to forgive us, we are simply remembering the power of Holy Baptism in our daily and eternal life.

Our baptism also joins us to one another.  As we become God’s child in Baptism, we also become siblings to one another – part of something larger than ourselves that calls us to look beyond ourselves.  “S” will become my brother. He will be YOUR brother.  And if he is our brother, it is our job to watch out for him, to care for him – as Jesus says, to LOVE him, as he commands us all to love one another.**

It’s an outrageous mystery, Holy Baptism.  That water, together with God’s Word, can do so much FOR us and IN us. I can’t explain HOW it happens – only that God promises us that is DOES.

Thank you (mom) and (dad), for bringing “S” to us – and for giving us this chance to reflect on the meaning of Holy Baptism – this “unfailing treasure” given to us by Jesus – and for giving us a new brother to love!


*John 1:5

**John 13:34


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