Sunday, August 4, 2013

Eleventh after Pentecost

Proper 13C2  
Eccles.1:2, 12-14; 2: 18-23; Col. 3: 1-11; Lk 12: 13-21
Baptism of Harrison Alec Micko

Good morning all, and grace and peace.  Turning the page on another month of the summer and looking forward--I think just a couple of weeks away—to our return to good old St. Andrew’s.  Following the joke, moving from the Church “without any flaws,” to a Church with “new flaws!”

With continued thanks to George Knight and Murray Rust, our Campaign Committee, and all the team overseeing the first stages of our renewal.  And as a mailing and general solicitation is being prepared in the office now, a reminder of deepest thanks for those who have already and for those who will soon be indicating pledges of support to make all this good work possible.  A new page, a new chapter for a 176 year old congregation, and with all of us to be a part of turning that page and opening new accessibility and resources for mission and ministry in the new century ahead.

The sign to me of that new century couldn't be more vivid and lively, the baptism of Harrison Alec Micko this morning.  Baptism #13 in the register for St. Andrew’s in 2013, and I know that we’re not finished yet by a long shot.  Max Kampmeyer scheduled in September, for one.  More beyond him.  A banner year for baptisms!

Harrison this morning.  Fresh water poured into the font, the ancient promises and prayers, a blessing with the sign of the cross marked in aromatic oil across his forehead.  And echoing the words of decision and commitment and promise that his parents and godparents speak over him, and all of us together, in affirmative response to the questions that are the key questions and the bottom-line questions not simply of baptism but of the whole of our lives.

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?

The answer to those questions, the answer that will make all the difference.  For Harrison, and for each and every one of us here this morning.   Our response to the one critical invitation. 

The future life and ministry of this congregation, represented here in Harrison.  And at the same time as we gather in prayer and remembrance at the death of our beloved friend Rae Brooks, as we offer our prayers in our biddings this morning.  Who arrived with the beginnings of her young family here in Highland Park in February of 1960, in the last year of the Eisenhower administration (!), as her husband was called to serve as the 14th Rector of this great parish.  Just to begin to recollect so many memories and so much love over half a century and a lifetime.  A woman of such intelligence, grace, strength—through all the ups and downs of life, of which of course there were many.  And so appropriate to be remembering her in prayer also as we hold the past in our memories but also celebrate the future that God has in mind for us.  For each of us individually, for this parish and community.

Memories of the past.  Hopes for the future.  Christian people always in the mode, “already but not yet.”   A spirit of Advent all the year long.  As we wait expectantly for the one who has already accomplished his great victory. 

The three readings this morning coordinated as it were on the pivot of Colossians 3, verse 2, right at the beginning of our second reading: Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

We hear this morning the wind blowing across the vast emptiness of the universe in the deep sighs of the Preacher, the speaker in the Book of Ecclesiastes, reflecting perhaps what we would call the “wisdom of Solomon.”  The wisdom of the one who steps back from the busyness and noise and frantic activity of the world, the pursuit of success and prosperity, the ins and outs and ups and downs of transient human relationships, conquests and prizes, the search for reputation and accomplishment.  So easy for that all to be simply self-medication.  Vanity.   Vanity.  Emptiness.   

Shakespeare of course preaches on the same text.  Macbeth in the fifth act, as he learns of his wife’s death.  “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time; and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Then here in Luke 12.  In this dramatic procession through the Galilee Jesus has been healing the sick and casting out demons and calling out the authorities for their hypocrisy—ostentatious religious rituals and public gestures of adherence to ceremonial law, all while ignoring personally and corporately God’s call for personal faithfulness of relationship, holiness of life, and an offering of  justice and compassion founded on his Word.   Speaking to the crowds of the coming Kingdom of God and of the costs of faithful discipleship. 

And someone in the crowd has a question for Jesus.  Since you’re so committed to the justice of God, speak to my lousy relatives and tell them that they need to be sure I get my fair share of the family inheritance.  All the usual messy scramble of material life, I suppose.  And  Jesus replies with this parable about the man whose wealth was so great that he had to build new warehouses to hold it all, the man who had everything.  And then of course with the ominous chords in the background, the Grim Reaper arrives for HIS fair share.  And you know the rest of the story.  “A poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more.”   So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.

The bumper sticker says, “The one who dies with the most toys, wins.”   What are we worried about?  What is our bottom-line concern?

I remember shortly after we moved to Pittsburgh driving across Lawrenceville with my son Daniel, and turning to cross through the Allegheny Cemetery, with all the great monuments and family mausoleums especially up on the Penn Avenue side.  As Dan saw them for the first time he said, “wow, there sure are a lot of rich dead people in this cemetery.”

This is just exactly the right context for Harrison’s baptism this morning.  And with our memories of Rae.  For what we do in our minds and hearts as we renounce the Lord of Darkness and dedicate and rededicate ourselves to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

What is there to trust in this world of ours?  In whom shall we place our trust?   What is the foundation to build on that isn’t the foundation of sand, to wash away when the storm comes?  

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?

Exactly the right context for sure, for Harrison’s baptism, for our prayers for Rae, sanctifying our memories and our hopes, and to hear St. Paul to this Christian congregation 2,000 years ago, and also very much to us and for us here this morning.   Going back to that Steven Covey line that I repeated while we were thinking about Paul’s letter to the Galatians a few weeks back: the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. 

The word of God for us to hear with our ears and in our hearts:  If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

And now I would invite Harrison Alec Micko and his parents and godparents to come forward, as we would celebrate together the Sacrament of New Birth in the life of Christ.

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