Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sermon; Easter Vigil A; 2017

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Those are good words to say. After the long, subdued season of Lent, it’s good to finally rejoice. We have come through this recent Lenten season – through fasting and sacrifice, through failures and successes, through any number of trials and challenges – we have come through all of this and emerged on the other side, on the side of life. Over the past 5-1/2 months I have watched the people of this congregation with both pride and awe as you have performed any number of tasks that make this such a great place.

As a congregation we have moved from the dark days of recent past, from a time of death and decay, to the bright days of our present future, to a time of resurrection and life. If you are unsure of what dark days to which I am referring, they were the days of pre-Easter. They were the days when we tried to live by self-will and failed. They were the days when we betrayed Jesus. They were the days when we denied Jesus. They were the days when Jesus died. They were the days when we were alone.

But all of that is past. All of that is water under the bridge as we move forward in a new life that has been resurrected with Christ. We know we have been resurrected with Christ because of two events. The first is Christ's own resurrection. The second is our baptism.

The first is an odd little thing that Christians believe. Resurrection is not rational. We can’t prove that a man died and rose again. All we’ve got is the testimony of the resurrection as found in the bible and our faith.

But we humans get tired of faith alone. We want something tangible, something we can touch and hold onto to help keep us moving in the right direction. It’s why some people carry prayer beads. It's why Episcopalians hold to the Prayer Book so dearly. It’s certainly why we develop rituals. Those THINGS help us live out our faith. By holding onto something tangible, by having a book that contains ancient words of a living faith, by participating in the rituals of the church, those tangible things become our modern expression of an ancient testimony of resurrection – that miracle in time when Christ passed over from death to life. Resurrection continually moves us forward into new life.

That second thing that gives us new life is our baptism. Paul talks about this in his letter to the Romans. We were baptized into Christ Jesus and baptized into his death. We were buried with him and raised with him through our baptism. Water is both life-taking and life-giving, and baptism symbolizes that dual aspect.

We are taken down under the water where we die, only to be raised up again to new life. We are taken down covered in the sin of the world and washed clean by the holy water of baptism. Our old self dies. Our new self lives. And even though we know these bodies of ours will pass away, we also know that death is not the end but a doorway to new life. Through baptism, we are reminded that our lives are changed, not ended.

One of the great joys we experience as a church is the service of baptism; it's even more special when that baptism occurs during the greatest service of the church year. Today we welcomed Carl Nikolaos into the household of God. Today we promised to feed him with the spiritual food of the body and blood of Christ, as well as promising to uphold and support him in his life in Christ.

In that support we also confirmed our own baptismal vows by participating once again in the baptismal covenant. Do you reaffirm your renunciation of evil? Do you believe in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Will you continue in fellowship? Will you repent? Will you proclaim the Good News of Christ? Will you love your neighbor? Will you respect the dignity of every human being?

Those are not simply questions and answers printed on the pages of a prayer book, but they are guidelines for how we should order our life. The Baptismal Covenant isn’t simply a religious rite; those promises and vows are the tangible words of our faith that can help keep us moving in the right direction. These words can help us to order our lives so that everything we do has God as our centerpiece.

How might we begin to do this? We have just come through Lent. Some of us gave things up. Some of us took things on. Some did a little of both. Some of us used Lent to find ways to take care of ourselves. Some of us succeeded in our observance all season, others came up short. But now that our Lenten observance is ended, maybe we could think about beginning an Easter discipline; one that reminds us we have been baptized into Christ’s death and buried with him so that we might walk in newness of life. What if we replaced our Lenten discipline with an Easter discipline of reflecting on the Baptismal vows throughout the season?

Easter, may I remind you, is not a one-and-done event. Jesus didn’t show up post-resurrection on the first day and then disappear. He appeared in the upper room twice. He walked the road to Emmaus. He bbq’d fish for breakfast. Easter is a long season. It is a time of living with and reflecting on the risen Christ. What we do here today – gather, pray, read, bless, and be nourished – we will do again next Sunday. And the Sunday after that. And the Sunday after that. Through it all, it is our baptism that binds us to Jesus and each other in a new life.

That new life, though, did begin with a one-and-done event. In the life of the Church, the Resurrection itself was a one-time event. In our lives as disciples, our baptism was a one-time event. Those are both big and powerful events. Those are both events which we are gathered here today to celebrate. Those are both significant events. Significant they may be, however, it’s the life that follows which gives those events meaning. How the Church lives will give meaning to the Resurrection. How we live will give meaning to our baptism and the Church. How Carl lives will give meaning to the Church, his baptism, and those who witnessed it.

Several years ago I read a book called The Bullpen Gospels, about the life of a minor league baseball player. Towards the end of the book he relayed a story about children playing in one of those fountains that shoots water into the air and trying to catch the water. This is an impossible task because you can't catch water. But as he watched them play, he realized that the point wasn’t to catch the water but to simply play in it – to experience it.

The baptism of Carl and our participation in the baptismal covenant is much the same. We are not here to catch the water, or to put some of that baptismal water in a vial to keep forever. Instead we are being reminded to play in the waters of baptism – to experience that water throughout our lives.

We’ve come through a long Lenten season and the exhausting days of the Passion into the Day of Resurrection and season of Easter. We have participated in the baptism of Carl, bringing him into the household of God. We have renewed our own baptismal covenant, remembering our own waters of baptism. Will you see this as a one-and-done event? Will you see today as the culmination of your baptism, or will you see today as the first day of your life in Christ?

Will you play in the waters of baptism and revel in the joy of resurrection in the days to come?

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Let us go from here celebrating the Resurrection, our baptism, and our new life in Christ from this time forth for evermore.



First time comments will be moderated.