Sunday, June 10, 2012

Water, Spirit

Holy Baptism: Cooper Reed Filipek
2nd after Pentecost (Proper 5B) Genesis 3: 8-15, Mark 3: 20-35

Grace and peace to all on this second Sunday in June, the Second Sunday after Pentecost, the First Sunday after the Feast of the Holy Trinity, which is how we used to count these weeks, and as I said last week now on into the long Green Season of “Ordinary Time.”  A pattern that fits well with the spirit of the coming summer, and a time we might even say of rest and reflection before we come next fall once again to Advent and the renewal of the great cycle of the Church Year. 

In our Revised Common Lectionary here at St. Andrew’s , just to get our footnotes in order, we begin at Proper 5, Year B, Track Two, and our gospel readings will now on Sunday mornings follow a more-or-less consecutive reading of St. Mark’s gospel (in Year A it’s Matthew, in Year C, Luke), with Old Testament readings in this Track Two selected to relate more or less in terms of theme to the gospel reading, and with the invitation before us, and perhaps I might say the challenge, on a week by week basis to hear God’s holy Word in scripture and to reflect on how that Word is to speak to us and to give shape and direction to our day to day lives.  Our “ordinary lives” in this “Ordinary Time.”

That said, our first Sunday in “Ordinary Time” is certainly not for us an ordinary Sunday, as we have come together this morning and as we have just shared in this highest of moments in Christian life, the celebration of Holy Baptism.  A celebration which may be done simply and quietly, or with trumpets and brass and drums, but in any case will never be and can never be “ordinary.”  Cooper Reed Filipek, son of Dan and Marlie.  

We had him and his mom and dad in our prayers through those months of expectancy and gestation, as he was being knit together in the womb by our Heavenly Father, we celebrated his birth as storks circled overhead here in Highland Park, and today what a truly extraordinary privilege, on a Sunday in “Ordinary Time,” as we gather around this font as a Christian family, as Cooper’s parents and godparents, Aunt Jaime and Uncle Brandon, and all of us, family and friends, renew our Christian commitment and today celebrate with and for Cooper the sacramental mystery of incorporation and adoption, as the seed of faith is planted graciously and lovingly by our Heavenly Father, within the embrace of the faith of the whole Church in heaven and on earth, saints and martyrs and multitudes from every generation who have confessed Jesus as Lord and who have known the gift of his graceful love—who have been inspired by his life and his teaching to hope for and to begin to realize the promise of eternal life with him, who have promised freely and in thanksgiving to serve him as Lord as he reigns at the right hand of the Father and in the communion of the Holy Spirit One God forever and ever.

No ordinary Sunday, as we have heard Dan and Marlie, Jaime and Brandon, standing by Cooper and with all of us: Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?  Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?  Do you promise to follow and obey him as your Lord?  I do, I do, I do.  Words spoken over Cooper this morning, as they were on October 9, 1977, at this very same font spoken over his father Dan.  (And Cooper this morning wearing the same baptismal gown . . . .)  The heart and soul of our new life beginning for each of us in the waters of baptism, in the choice to turn away from sin and death, the conscious choice to reject all the temptations that the Evil One would have to offer us, and to follow Jesus.  No ordinary Sunday, and a great and joyful day for us all.

So with all that, just a word.  Hovering around us is that reading we heard a few minutes ago from the beginning of Genesis.  The history of brokenness, of the willful disobedience that is for each of us our natural state of being, and which we all have known and experienced.  One bite of the apple, all it took.  A snapshot profile of the Human Condition.  

The moment in the Garden as our First Father and Mother hid themselves in guilt and shame, just as we have spent so much of our lives hiding, locking the truth of ourselves away, sweeping under the rug, with the really sad and pathetic belief it seems that we might not be held accountable.  Denial, blame.  Again, the whole human story, so familiar.  Even as we pray week by week to the Almighty God “unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, from whom no secrets are hid.”

It was to overthrow the consequences of this rebellion and the curse of sin and death that Jesus was born that winter night in the Little Town of Bethlehem.  God acting because we were and are as we know all too well by ourselves incapable of acting.  God living for us and dying for us to break the pattern of sin and to free us to know his grace and his love forever.  Healed and reconciled, knowing, accepting, confessing our sin, and receiving the gift of grace and forgiveness.

And so we have as well this passage from the Third Chapter of St. Mark, which seems to me to be a great passage to read on a baptismal day.  Jesus in the synagogue at Capernaum.  In these opening chapters of Mark Jesus’s ministry has begun with an intense and dramatic series of healings and exorcisms and prophetic words and actions that just seem to explode across these villages of the Galilee.  The crowds gather, and there is sharp controversy with community leaders and religious officials even from Jerusalem, who have come out to see what all the fuss is about.  And even his family.  I wonder what Mary must have made of all this.  Remembering what she could remember of the words of Gabriel, Blessed are you and blessed is the fruit of your womb, of the hope and fear that filled her heart on that night all those years ago, as the Shepherds told her the news of what they had seen and heard from the angelic choir.  Or what old Simeon had said to her in the Temple:  “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel.”

“Your family has come to take you away, Jesus.”  And it seems like one of those turning points.  Lots of folks were curious at first, but now things are getting a little crazy.  Most everybody is backing toward the door.  But Jesus looks at those who remain, who stay with him, who have listened and heard and known something in their hearts, and who have made a choice in that moment to stay with him.  “My family?”  He says.  “And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers!  Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

So Cooper Reed, and Dan and Marlie, and Jaime and Brandon, and all of us this morning.  All of us.  A splash of water, a dab of oil on the forehead, a prayer of dedication, and welcome to this new family!  Washing away the ancient curse and choosing to follow Jesus, to hear his word for us.  To intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways.  Choosing not the way of sin and death, but the royal highway of our Lord and Savior.

It is a great beginning, and may it be a blessing, and a time of renewal for all of us.  As I hope we all will feel it this morning.  As my college roommate’s poster read, and again for Cooper and for all of us, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” 

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

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