Sunday, October 12, 2014

Pentecost 18 and Baptism of Ava Sheridan: Showing up

Lectionary: Exodus 32:1-14; Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23; Philippians 4:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14
Preacher: The Rev Dr Valori Mulvey Sherer, Rector

Lectionary: Exodus 32:1-14; Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23; Philippians 4:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14
Preacher: The Rev Dr Valori Mulvey Sherer, Rector
En el nombre del Dios: Padre, Hijo, y Espiritu Santo. Amen.

Today we celebrate the Baptism of Virginia Avonne Sheridan (whom we lovingly know as Ava). For Episcopalians, Baptism is full initiation into the body of Christ, the Church. It is an invitation into an identity, a way of living in relationship with God, self, and neighbor.

At our baptism, we mark the beginning of a life-long journey of becoming who we already are, who God made us to be. We do this in the safety of a community devoted to loving us, and helping us to discover, nurture, and practice our gifts.

When we baptize a baby, we are reminded that God’s grace is offered to us ahead of our ability to respond. That grace also follows us and guides us through each moment of our lives.

One day, Ava, like all of us, will have the opportunity to confirm the vows being made on her behalf today. Until then, we will steep her in the love of God in Christ made manifest in this community of faith.

Some people answer the invitation extended at Baptism with a “Yes,” but it’s a yes in concept only. ‘Yes, I’m a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ,’ but when the time comes to live like a Christian they don’t show up.

This is what Jesus is teaching us in the parables from our gospel reading. When we answer our invitation with a ‘yes in concept only’ we are making light of the invitation and the one extending it.

Jesus talks about one who, instead of going to the king’s banquet, went to work on his farm. He was distracted by the busy-ness of life which took priority of his time. By not showing up, this one denied himself the opportunity to go deeply into a relationship with God and his faith could grow no roots.

Another one went to his business – the place where he was the boss, where he made his own decisions. Rather than answering the invitation from God to be transformed, this one chose to remain in his comfortable habit of believing he was the authority, he knew best for himself. As a result, he never developed the humility needed to take up his cross and die on it – without which there could be no resurrection life for him.

The ones in the parable who seized the slaves, mistreated and killed them, are those who disrupt the work of the true followers of Christ. We can identify these pretty easily in our own time. Their attacks against those who are working to build the kingdom of heaven on earth are personal, destructive, even fatal at times… to their reputation, their self-esteem, their health and well-being.

The good news, though, is that God will not be stopped. When the invited guests (the chosen ones) don’t show up, God simply reaches past them and invites others to the banquet. In fact, everyone is invited, good and bad, because that’s the nature of God – generous beyond reason.

But then there’s that one in the parable who refuses to put on the wedding robe (an allegorical reference we understand to mean to “put on Christ”). This is the one who answers the invitation in concept only, showing up but not really participating, only to discover that his choice has led him into darkness.

Thankfully, the invitation from God is eternal. It is extended by God again and again because, as the Psalmist says, God’s “mercy endures forever.” (v 1). When we disobey or lose our way, which we all do, God does not abandon us but waits patiently, lovingly for us to repent and return.

This is why we live together as a community of faith. When we lose our way, God extends a hand through someone in the church to help us find our way back. During our inevitable moments of doubt, the prayers of our community uphold us while God transforms our doubt into faith. When we descend into darkness, which every mature Christian will at some point, the light of Christ shines in our community of faith and all we have to do is draw near it and we’re bathed in the warmth and comfort it provides.

But being a Christian isn’t only about us. It’s also about being committed to loving and serving others in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It’s about “showing up” and working to change systems that fail to respect the dignity of every human being, no matter how unpopular that work is judged to be “out there” …or even “in here.”

The community of faith, therefore, must strive to live in harmony, as St. Paul calls the church in Philippi to do. There are enough assaults on us from the world. We don’t need to be assaulting ourselves as well.

St. Paul says, “ Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (4:5-7)

Becoming a Christian is a life-long endeavor and it takes a community. As theologian N.T. Wright says, there are no individual Christians. We are by definition a body: the body of Christ.

And into this body we now bring our sweet Ava. God grant that her experience of us may always be that we are a place of love, friendship, peace, and justice; a place where we can all grow into the fullness of our true selves.


I now invite the parents and God-mother to bring Ava to the Baptismal font where she will begin this amazing, life-long journey in faith.

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