Sunday, March 6, 2011
Last after the Epiphany, Quinquagesima 2011
Baptism of Lucy Jeanne Field
Good morning, and grace and peace to all.
A big day on the calendar. The official title in the lectionary is “The Last Sunday after the Feast of the Epiphany,” this year the Ninth Sunday after, which is as long is this season can go. Also called sometimes “Transfiguration Sunday” because of the gospel and epistle readings appointed in modern lectionaries for this Last Sunday before Lent begins (but not the Feast of the Transfiguration, which is August 6)—and in the old calendar, Quinquagesima, the last of the three Sundays of Pre-Lent, fifty days before Easter. Leaning forward. Getting ready to get ready.
In several places in the service we’ll notice an extra “alleluia” or two, and that’s because we put that wonderful celebratory acclamation away now during this more austere season, only to come forth again as we greet the Risen Christ on Easter Morning.
Most importantly for us this morning of course it’s a big day on the St. Andrew’s calendar as we join the great chorus of Angels and Archangels and all the Heavenly Host to sing our “Quinquagesima” alleluias with Lucy Jeanne Field, as she is sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.
It has been fun getting to know Lucy, as we met her as I recall a month or maybe it was two months before her official arrival, and as we have seen her week by week and as she and mom and dad have settled in to their new patterns of family life. She’s been a regular attender at the 11 a.m. service, and like most who attend regularly she has more or less decided on which pew is hers (usually about four from the back on the gospel side) and she has developed some strong but always diplomatic habits in providing the rector with regular and opinionated sermon feedback. So she’s been fitting right in with the rest of you! I’m sure once she gets her own Facebook account I’ll be hearing from her even more often.
So--welcome to the family, indeed, Lucy, and as we celebrate today and also have you and your mom and dad very much in our thoughts and prayers especially in the days ahead—as Lucy will be having surgery early this week over at Children’s Hospital to correct a problem with her heart that she was born with. I know that’s a lot for mom and dad, and we’ll have you all in our hearts and in our prayers with much love as that unfolds.
In our readings for this Last Sunday after the Epiphany we are all about “mountaintop experiences.” Moses on Sinai. Jesus and his disciples at the Mount of Transfiguration. Above the noise, the crowds. Away from the busyness of everyday life. Responsibilities, deadlines. In the Biblical story God shows himself to people in all sorts of places—in the garden, in the temple, on the battlefield. Awake, and in dreams. Just while traveling down the road. But there is something to these Mountaintop moments. Perhaps wherever you are, when you hear God speak, that is a Mountaintop. A place of vision and revelation.
So for us--here this morning at the baptismal font. At the altar and communion rail. As the scriptures are read and heard. God speaking, making himself known to us. Mountaintop experiences.
I haven't read this since college, but I remember this great moment in William Wordsworth later poem, The Prelude. Wordsworth is out climbing in the Alps with a friend, and ruminating in a poetical way about what it will be like to reach the summit, to be able to see the wide vista there at what would seem like the very top of the world. He and his companion climb the steep winding path with their guide, thinking about all these things, trying to put words together for the literary expression that will mark this great and high moment.
And then Wordsworth and his friend get a little lost, and they wander a bit, follow some side paths, are detached from their guide, and finally after some hours of meandering they meet some other travelers--only to discover, as they talk with them, that in their wandering, unawares, they had already passed the summit. They missed it. John Lennon said in his song, “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.”
And certainly one thought about this, to say for Chris and Jessica this morning and the first days and weeks with lovely baby Lucy, as a new family together, that you would savor each moment. And then to say, and certainly with many others who have walked this road before you, that you blink twice and she’s borrowing the keys to the car and moving off to college. And you say, “when did that happen?” I find myself saying that all the time, and sometimes with real regret. Peter wants to hit the “pause” button up there on the mountain. “Can’t we just pitch our tents here and hold on to this moment?” They all catch their breath in wonder at the vision. But by the time they exhale, the moment has passed.
The point of the Transfiguration story, all our mountaintop stories, isn’t the altitude and elevation, but who we meet there, what that encounter does for us, in us. Who we become. How we are changed as we head back down to the life of the world. Wherever that mountaintop may be for us.
In Matthew’s gospel we’ve gone from the Sermon on the Mount to this Mount of Transfiguration. And in a few weeks we’ll follow the crowd out of the city to the hill called Golgotha, where God will show himself to us on a cross. And then a few weeks after that we’ll meet him again, on the Mountain of the Great Commission, sending us out to continue his work, to be miracle workers of healing and reconciliation, to proclaim the gospel, to teach, to baptize all nations in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
From mountaintop to mountaintop to mountaintop. God present in our lives, revealing himself to us in so many ways. In word and sacrament. In prayer, in worship. In the quiet meditation of our hearts. This is my beloved Son. Listen to him. If we were to write that on a 3x5 card and carry it around with us this Lent. Listen to him. That we would open our eyes, our ears, our hearts. To receive the gift that he is, for us.
However we got here today, let this place be the Holy Mountain for us, right here, this morning. As we touch also the waters of baptism. With Lucy. We die with Christ here at this font, that we may be raised up in his resurrection. A renewal of life that we begin to experience even now. And as we share in his Body, the Bread and Cup of the New Kingdom. As he shows himself to us. Lifts us up into himself. And sends us out rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.
And now with great pleasure I would like to ask Lucy Jeanne Field to bring her family and her godparents to the front of the Church, as we continue this celebration this morning.