(Proper 9C2) Isaiah 66: 10-14
Baptism of Brycen Charles Harris
Good morning on this summer Sunday. Something of an extended holiday weekend for some, I know, as sometimes happens when Independence Day falls on a Thursday or a Tuesday. For me this year personally also something of a watershed weekend—and with thanks to all who were able to join us yesterday afternoon for a fun celebration of my 60th over in the Churchyard and in the Old Rectory at St. Andrew’s. Someone said that it seemed like we were out in that same Churchyard just the other day celebrating my 50th—and indeed it does seem like time is flying by, and with this summer marking the completion of 19 years and the beginning of my 20th year of ministry with you in this great parish. Certainly it has been such a great gift in more ways than I can possibly count. So with thanks.
And perfect this morning for a baptism. Brycen Charles Harris. A splash of water. New life. Summer all around us, and once again before us as a congregation we would have that Steven Covey line, “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” We have so much on our minds these days in the busyness of our lives. But to come to center with the questions Brycen’s parents and godparents will answer on his behalf this morning, and which we would also have before us. The questions and, most importantly, the answers that give us framework for Christian life. Three about repentance. Turning away from the old. And three about conversion of life. Moving in a new direction. Just to hear them here as emphasis:
Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God? Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God? Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God? 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?
To answer, each one of us, renewing the covenant of baptismal life: I do, I do, I do. Whenever I hear this I catch my breath in wonder. Turning away decisively from the Old Enemy. Turning to Christ. Everybody into the pool!
We would remember the hymn we sang together at the end of last Sunday’s service. The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. Brycen’s mom Anna and dad Mike and big brother Bradley are newer members of our St. Andrew’s family. It has been wonderful to get to know them and I know it is a delight for all of us to celebrate with them and with their family and friends this morning in this way. If you haven’t met them, this is a great day for it, and hope you have a chance to get acquainted over a cup of lemonade after the service. Right to the heart of what it means to be a Christian fellowship and community.
Laetare Ierusalem. If the reading from Isaiah sounds familiar, we would remember that this is the text of the canticle for the first words in the traditional Latin Mass Introit for the Fourth Sunday in Lent. The 10th of March this past spring, when there was still snow on the ground and in the middle of a long winter. Refreshment Sunday. Laetare Sunday: Rejoice, O Jerusalem: and come together all you that love her: rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow: that you may exult, and be filled . . . .
The brutal and devastating war and siege of Jerusalem, leaving the Holy City a smoking ruin, surrounded by a valley of bones, the young men of a generation lost in battle, families ruined, homes destroyed, the sacred precincts of the Temple ransacked by the invading army. A few terrified survivors scattered to the hills or marched off in chains as prisoners, settled finally in years to come in a diaspora of desolate slums and refugee camps across the deserts and villages and towns of Babylonian Iraq and Persia and Egypt. For seventy years, seventy years of exile, until finally by the hand of God the fall of one empire and the rise of another means that the refugees can return home, to return, with their sorrows and memories and now, for the first time in as long as most of them can remember, with hope for a future.
Comfort, comfort ye my people. Returning to the Land of Promise, spreading out before them as their ancestors had first after four hundred years of slavery and after a generation with Moses in the Wilderness caught a glimpse of the Land flowing with Milk and Honey. A Promised Land for a Chosen People. Now to build again, on the deep foundation of God’s sacred gift. I will be your God, and you will be my people, and I will not forsake you, says the Lord. Not ever. All the peoples of the world are to be blessed through you. “As a mother comforts her child so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice.” Laetare Jerusalem. Rejoice.
The real meaning, the true meaning of Isaiah’s ancient song of Israel could not be known, of course, until it was revealed to the women who came to the Tomb on Easter morning, and then to the rest of the disciples, and then is revealed to us—then, to us--when Lent gives way to Easter morning, when the Old Israel of God is transformed and revealed and fulfilled in the Body of the Risen Lord. God from God, Light from Light. Very God of very God. Word made flesh. The Truth of all time and space. The Body in which, in whom, we now live and move and have our being. The Body made present for us with comfort and with rejoicing at the Font, and in the whole company of faithful people. The New Jerusalem of God, Christ himself, present here in us already, and for us, in Word and Sacrament, and soon to come again with a rejoicing we can only begin this morning to imagine. Rejoice, Jerusalem! Rejoice indeed!
And to continue in that rejoicing, I would ask Brycen’s mom and dad and brother and his godparents now to come forward with him, and we would turn to our Service Leaflets and the Order for Holy Baptism.