Tag Archive | Holy Baptism

5th Sunday of Easter, 2017

5th Sunday of Easter, year A, preached 5/14/17

first reading:  Acts 7:55-60

Psalm 31:1-5,15-16

second reading:  1 Peter 2:2-10

gospel reading:  John 14:1-14

*Today we were celebrating the Rite of Confirmation.  I have only used the confirmand’s first initial to protect her privacy.


“Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation…  let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood… a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people…  Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

Our second reading for this morning about sums up our journey of faith, and I think it’s a perfect reading for today, as we celebrate S’s confirmation.

“Like newborn infants…”  That’s how all of us come to God, regardless of how old we were when we came to the font for Holy Baptism.  Whether we were five months old, or five years, or twenty five – we all come to God as newborns – with nothing to offer for ourselves.

Newborns are completely helpless, and will die if left to themselves.  They are utterly dependent on others for food, cleanliness, and protection.  Just like the tiniest baby, are you and I before God.  We can’t do anything to make ourselves worthy, can’t ever be good enough.

Our motives even when we do the right thing are often complicated instead of altruistic.  Someone hurts us and we can’t or won’t forgive, we screw up and we can’t forgive ourselves.  We’re a violent people: there is violence in our homes, prisons are filled with stories of violence, and the need for armies is a testimony to our collective urge to fight instead of make peace.

None of this is worthy of God.  So, we come to God helpless.  Beggars, looking for a bit of mercy.  And God gives us everything.  More than we could ever could’ve dreamed.

In our baptism we are made a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation – God’s own people.”

S – on November 11, 2001, Pastor “P” splashed the Water and the Word on you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit – and in that act you were sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.

It doesn’t mean that you, or the rest of us as the Church, are perfect.  Far from it.  To be “chosen,” “royal,” and “holy” isn’t a weapon we use against others, it doesn’t make us better than anyone else – it’s not a sign of OUR worth, but of God’s grace and love.

All we can do is live our lives in a way that says “thank you” for being made into “God’s people,” and the mercy we have received through Jesus Christ.

How do we do that?  Well, the liturgy for the Rite of Confirmation gives us all a good place to start.  As S will affirm in a few moments, it would be good for all of us to reflect upon how WE are continuing in the covenant God made with US in Holy Baptism:

  • “To live among God’s faithful people,
  • to hear God’s Word and share in his supper,
  • to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed,
  • to serve all people following the example of our Lord Jesus, and
  • to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.”¹

What all that really boils down to is what Jesus said were the two most important commands – to love God and to love neighbor.

As I said, none of us are perfect.  We fail as individuals and as Church.  But it doesn’t mean we stop trying.  And not only do we fail – we doubt and struggle with faith.  And let me make it clear that struggling with our faith or doubting, is NOT the same as failing.

Failing is when we know we’ve done something wrong.  Doubt and struggle are natural parts of faith that are not a sign of failure, but are actually signs of STRENGTH.  

There are positive and negative things about only having one student in confirmation class.  The negatives might seem pretty obvious.  But the positive is that I think S and I have had some good conversations about doubt and struggle.  She has shared with me some of hers, and I have shared with her some of mine.

S, I admire your ability to be as open with me as you have about your questions.  And I hope you KEEP asking questions, because it means you’re actually thinking about your faith.  Not blindly following. Doubt and struggle are ways we “grow into salvation” and in many other parts of life too.

It doesn’t mean we always get the answers, we’re not God after all – and the struggles and doubts can get really frustrating – but God can take it.  The most important thing we need to do for ourselves is to keep talking to God, and to keep hearing the Word and sharing the supper.  Because when we all wrestle, struggle or doubt, the worst thing we can do with God, or with any person or group, is to stop talking, to separate ourselves.

This is why Confirmation is not the end of our Christian education journey, or faith journey, but really is just the beginning.

The questions don’t end, they just change as we go through life, and sometimes questions we “think” we found the answers to come back around again.

Because we really are just “newborn infants” longing…  Faith is never a destination – only a journey.

Welcome to this new part of your journey S.  We, and most importantly GOD, are walking along with you.

AMEN.


¹Lutheran Book of Worship, p. 201

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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!

AMEN.


*John 1:5

**John 13:34