Saturday, July 9, 2011

Fourth after Pentecost

Isaiah 55: 10-13; Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-23
Holy Baptism: Ada Alvarez Munson

Grace and peace once again on this summer morning, and a great day for a baptism—which it always is: a great day for a baptism. Ada Alvarez Munson. It was fun and wonderful to watch her grow during her gestational months and certainly as wonderful now to see her in this moment and to celebrate with her mom and dad and her godparents and all her family and friends the great blessings of this holy sacrament. In a way I've had her in mind from the days all the way back four years ago now and more when I first got to know Alison and Clark in the time of preparation for the celebration of their marriage. I knew just intuitively that you guys would have in your lives the foundation of a great family, that you would be wonderful parents, and now that intuition is beginning to be fulfilled . . . .

At the end of Matthew Christ commands his church to go forth, to teach, and to baptize, and it is a privilege and a joy to come together this morning in obedience to that command and in the love that surrounds that obedience. We’ve had quite a few baptisms this year here at St. Andrew’s, and now two, two July Sundays in a row, which is very exciting. Sometimes perhaps sensing God tapping us on the shoulder and saying, “pay attention to this.” And even, “Let’s hear it twice, to be sure we really do hear the word for us.”

We may be invited in this year to allow the sacred mystery of the font to enter into our lives, individually and as a congregation, to give shape to our sense of who we are as Christian people, to be a source of refreshment and renewal in our going forward in mission and ministry.

The two readings for this morning seem to me to be just perfect for a baptismal day. The great song from the second part of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. “As rain and snow fall from the heavens and return not again, but water the earth, bringing for life and giving growth, seed for sowing and bread for eating, so is my word that goes forth from my mouth; it will not return to me empty; but will accomplish that which I have purposed, and prosper in that for which I sent it . . . . The mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”

Like the reading from the Prophet Zechariah last Sunday, this is spoken by the Prophet for that moment when the exiles of Jerusalem are about to return. A word of hope, a word all about renewal, about rededication to the Covenant at the heart of the relationship between God and his people. About the wonderful blessing and power and joy that will burst force in this new beginning. The water of baptism, in the soil of our lives. “Bringing forth life and giving growth.” Wonderful, and may we all have been showered with those baptismal waters this morning.

And something of the same in the famous parable of the Sower and the Seed in Matthew 13. The seed is scattered, and at first the story doesn’t seem too promising. Hard ground, thistles, burning sun. But then there is the seed that is sown now in the fresh new soil of God’s word, and it results in this miraculous and abundant harvest, growth in abundance.

It’s all transformation, new birth, resurrection. In the words of the Easter hymn, “as in Adam all die, but even so in Christ shall all be made alive." The Greek word we translate as "repentance," metanoia, means more than simply a sense of regret for something said or done. It indicates "another thought," or even, "another identity." It is about being changed, deep down, through and through. In repentance at the font we turn from sin and death and we turn to the one who is the Giver of Life. And in him we are changed and made new.

As we have been privileged to be a part of that this morning, and as we are privileged to be a part of that as Christian people again and again. His arms open in blessing—for Ada this morning, and for each of us, as we dedicate ourselves to him, as he comes along side to walk with us, day by day and all our life long.

Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God.

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