Sunday, May 1, 2022

3 Easter & Baptism, 2022-C: New life in the body of Christ


Lectionary: Acts 9:1-6, (7-20); Psalm 30; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19 

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

Blessed Eastertide to you all. As we continue to bask in the light of the new life given to us by Jesus at Easter, our joy is intensified by welcoming two new Christians, Patrick and Charles Carey, into the body of Christ.

The sacrament of Baptism is the foundation upon which we all stand as members of the body of Christ. In it we experience our release from the bondage of death and sin by sharing in the resurrection of Jesus. In our most helpless, powerless moments on earth, we the Baptized, find our hope and strength in Jesus our Savior.

In our Baptism, we are raised up into a new life of grace… a new life of grace. The blessings, mercy, and love of the Creator of the whole universe are now ours for the taking, and they come with the gifts of joy and wonder.

We now live a life where the lavish love of God will constantly amaze and thrill us – if we have eyes to see it. That’s why we prayed together in our Collect: “Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work” in the world around us.

The world has always been a place where Saul lives. The Sauls of the world believe they know what’s best for everyone and use their earthly power, even violence, to enforce their understanding of how the world, and everyone in it, should be. They may mean well, though some in our world’s history, even some in our world today, surely don’t.

In the end, our Scriptures promise that the Sauls of the world are rendered powerless in the face of the love of God, and those whom they hurt or destroyed didn’t go unnoticed by God. They too, have been redeemed and reconciled into the love of God. As the psalmist says, “You have turned my wailing into dancing; you have put off my sack-cloth and clothed me with joy.”

We will die many deaths in our Christian journey – the death of our understanding of ourselves, the death of our understanding of God or Jesus or the Spirit; the death of our expectation about church, the death of our personal goals or plans in favor of God’s plan for us. Each death we face is difficult and leaves us feeling lost and afraid, but we go into each death willingly because Jesus led the way for us and promised us new life on the other side of it… a life of freedom, joy, and wonder in all God’s works.

Knowing we are forgiven, we are able to learn and grow from our mistakes, not be undone by them. Can you imagine how Peter felt when he heard that cock crow, and realized that he’d denied his beloved Jesus three times? In our gospel story, Jesus offers Peter three opportunities to profess his love and commitment again, not holding his sin against him, but letting Peter learn from it. And what did Peter learn? 

Peter learned that all of us are likely to fail to be faithful at some point, but that doesn’t mean we have become worthless or cast out of relationship. God in Christ still loves us, has a plan for us, and can use the humility we’ve learned to enable us to serve better.

Peter learned that God is always ready to reach out to us to reconcile us back into love. Jesus invited Peter to profess his love and commitment as many times as he had sinned. The invitation is ours too. It’s why we promise to repent and return to the Lord whenever (not if ever) we sin.

Peter learned that the new life promised to us is real and beyond anything we could ask or imagine. Peter, like Mary Magdalene, didn’t recognize the resurrected Jesus at first. Whatever we think about God, God is more than that. Closing our eyes to or resisting the new thing God is placing before us and waiting for what we want or expect is not only useless, it’s unfaithful.

And finally, Peter learned that faithfully living in Christ doesn’t mean we will avoid the pain and violence of the world, but since Jesus went there first, we are assured of the grace of resurrection. All of us will experience being led where we don’t want to go at some point. It’s the ‘take up your cross and follow me’ aspect of our life of faith. But for us, the cross is now simply the gateway to new life. So we go - with confidence in the love of God that goes with us.

Living this life – the resurrection life of Jesus – takes a community. We can’t do this alone and we aren’t meant to. We’re meant to do this– all of it - the painful and the joyful, the disastrous and the miraculous, as the body of Christ in the world.

Today we are baptizing two persons into this body of Christ, committing to be there with them every step of the way on their journeys of faith, including the deaths they will face and the joys they will know. We pledge today to share it all with them.

More than that, we pledge to be their teachers, their prayer partners, and their encouragers. We promise to help them know what being a Baptized Christian in the Episcopal faith means (and what it doesn’t). We promise to help them discover their unique gifts and God’s purpose for them in the world. Then we promise to support them as they live into that purpose. 

We also renew our promise to continue to do the same for one another. It's a sacred bond we make and we do it as a family of faith. Amen.

 (Invitation to the font)

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