Sunday, August 15, 2021

12th Pentecost & Baptism, 2021-B: Baptized into a Eucharistic life

 Lectionary: 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14; Psalm 111; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6:51-58 

En el nombre del Dios, que es Trinidad en unidad. Amen.

How blessed am I to be able to preach Baptism on my final Sunday as Interim Rector at Calvary?! It’s a priest’s dream come true to welcome new disciples into the fold and we are blessed to welcome two babies and an adult at our Rite II service today.

Starting with Jesus’ own baptism, we believe that each Baptism marks a new reality of divine-human co-existence - the Spirit of God dwelling within our human bodies.

As Episcopalians, we don't use Baptism as a form of ecclesiastical fire insurance (that is, keeping ourselves out of hell). We don't use it to avoid the pain and suffering of life. We don't even use it to avoid death.

In fact, when we baptize, we are intentionally entering into death – the death of Jesus - so that we might live in the power of his resurrection. (BCP, 306) Baptism, you see, is about how we live, not what happens when we die.

As the author of the letter to the Ephesians reminds us: “Be careful… about how you live…” Be aware, be intentional, for in Baptism, we choose to live resurrection lives, lives in which we are united with the author of all life; lives of hope, forgiveness, and transformation, In Baptism we choose to live in community, dedicating ourselves and our gifts to serving all people and all creation, in the name of Christ.

Baptism is full initiation into the body of Christ. As a parish, we pledge to support and love these new Christians as they grow into their full stature in Christ. That means creating opportunities, programs, and means by which we are all continually formed in our faith.

Theologian Paul Tillich says that in Baptism, we are “struck by the grace of God.” In that moment, he says, we know - in a way that is beyond human understanding - that God loves us with an “incomprehensible love.” Being struck by grace transforms us, all our relationships, and, therefore, how we live in the world.

It’s important to remember that our Christian journey doesn’t lead us beyond our human propensity to sin. At some point we will all lose our focus and make mistakes. To his credit, King David modeled how faithful believers respond when confronted with our sin: by owning it and trusting in the mercy and love of God to reconcile us back into the unity of Spirit in the bond of peace.

The system of thought that underlies my interim ministry is Appreciative Inquiry, which teaches that what we focus on becomes our reality. We can choose to focus on what we don’t have or what we wish were true, or… we can look deeply at what we do have, without judgment, and find the gifts present – because there are always gifts to be found. Such is the grace of God.

Living in the truth of our reality enables us to see and move forward on the path of grace God is setting before us. So, here is our reality: Jesus said, ‘I am the bread of life…. I am the living bread that came down from heaven… it is my own flesh I give and my flesh gives life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty… “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.”

This co-abiding, this co-existence is continually accomplished and strengthened through our other sacrament: Holy Communion. As Episcopalians believe in the real presence of Christ in this sacrament. Real. Presence. It’s astounding when we think about it.

Theologian Henri Nouwen, says, “the Eucharist is the most ordinary and the most divine gesture imaginable. That is the truth of Jesus [he says]. So human, yet so divine; so familiar, yet so mysterious…” (Source, p. 82-83)

If you ever doubt that, watch a young child receive communion. They come up with hands and eyes raised, a big smile on their face, ready to receive whatever is being given out. They may not know what it is, but they know they want it!

I’ve watched parents pull their children’s hands down and the resulting disappointment on the child’s face. One time a parent came up to me, with their child still loudly protesting their exclusion from Communion. I asked the parent why they didn’t want the child to have Communion and they said, “they don’t know what’s going on in the sacrament.” I responded, “Neither do I, do you?”

In Communion, the realms of earth and heaven become one for a moment that is real, tangible, and repeatable. Using the simplest of events (a shared meal) and the most common food (bread and wine), Jesus gave us a way to re-member, to come together and be reconnected to and refueled by his Spirit.

In a Eucharistic Prayer I wrote, which we have used in the Rite Place service, we pray: “you gathered your friends together, as you’d done so many times before. The meal was simple: bread and wine. In your hands and by your prayers, however, this simple food became holy food, the food of life.”

Eating the food of life, which is the real presence of Christ, transforms us into the current locations of the co-existence of the human-divine reality instituted in Jesus. Recognizing this and living accordingly is how we live a Eucharistic life.

Like King David, we’ll sin along the way. We’ll make mistakes, break communion, even manipulate to get our way. But our comfort lies in being part of a community that is bound together by the love of Christ who is always with us. 

(Note: for Rite I and online guests): Now, as a community, we will renew our own Baptismal vows in solidarity with those we are welcoming into the fold later on at our Rite II service. The Renewal of our Baptism is found in the service booklet on page 6 or in the Book of Common Prayer on page 304.

(Note: for Rite II): Now, as a community, let’s welcome our new family through the sacrament of Baptism, on page 6 in the full-service bulletin or on page 301 in the Book of Common Prayer.

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