Sunday, November 9, 2014

Twenty Second after Pentecost

Matthew 25: 1-13 (Proper 27A) 
Baptism of Quinn Wells Filipek

What a great morning to come together for worship--and most especially with mom and dad, Marlie and Dan, and with big brother Cooper, and godparents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and all family and friends to celebrate the baptism of Quinn Wells Filipek.  We prayed for her—even though we didn’t know her name yet!—and for her mom and dad for all those months before she was born, and certainly we celebrated with much applause her grand entrance.  Such a blessing, a gift, and we are here today with much love, as we have joined our voices with the choirs of angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.  A simple moment.  Parents and godparents have offered a confession of faith on her behalf, to plant a seed of intention that will grow with care and good attention in years to come.  Some water was splashed in the font.  A dab of oil to sweeten the moment.  Yet looking through the simplicity of this as a window to an event of cosmic and eternal significance.  Death and resurrection in the waters of baptism, a reminder of the victory of God, through the Cross, over all the forces of evil and death.  So vivid to us.  The deep pattern of repentance and forgiveness, the embrace of his mercy—and in the late morning of a fall Sunday on Hampton Street we catch a glimpse of the fullness of God’s promise in Christ Jesus. 

So a great morning indeed.  Hearts full of thanks for the gifts of this day.  Big smiles!  Even as we understand that baptism is in its deepest meaning not simply an event or a day or just one splash of water at the font, but the entry to a way of Christian life and commitment, for Quinn and for her family and for all of us.  To be open in our hearts and minds as we hear and read and come to know God’s Word for us, as it is written in Scripture and made flesh in his Son Jesus.  To grow in faith, in his knowledge and love, and to encourage and support one another day by day.

The New Testament reading this morning from the 25th chapter of Matthew, and just a reminder that in the sequence of our readings where we are in the gospel is still Palm Sunday.  Jesus and his disciples entering the city—with all the cheers and the waving of branches.  Hosanna to the Son of David, hosanna in the highest!  The procession through the Holy City up to the Temple, and then the confrontation with the Temple authorities and Scribes, and then after the Priests and Scribes depart to continue their plotting in secret, continuing an ongoing debate with the Pharisees.   They are trying to discredit Jesus in the midst of all the crowds of the faithful who have come to the City for the celebration of the Passover.  Jesus has pushed back even more emphatically in those parables—the two sons, the unruly tenants, the marriage feast, the Roman coin.  We took a brief break last Sunday for All Saints Day, but as we return we’re still in that moment—Jesus was just about ready to leave the Temple, but as he is debating now the Pharisees, who are still trying to catch them up, he has a few parting words, and we come to this very familiar parable, the Wise and Foolish Maidens.

We’re back in the imagery of the wedding, where we were a couple of weeks ago.  A bit different this time.  This time referring to a marriage custom of the day, as the groom comes to the home of the bride, receives her from her father, and escorts her to the celebration by the light of lamps carried by her bridesmaids, probably her sisters and cousins.  The parable here is simple.  The groom has a flat tire on the Parkway and is delayed.  Some of the bridesmaids are alive with excitement, a sense of expectation, clustering at the windows so that they can see him the very moment he comes into view; others lose track of time, get distracted, fall asleep, neglect to prepare their lamps.  And then all of a sudden he’s there, knocking at the door, and they’re all flustered, panic fills the room, and the lamp-oil shops are closed for the day, and only those bridesmaids who were ready are able to join the parade and participate in the feast.

It’s a great parable to hear again of course in these weeks now leading up to Advent Sunday.  Traditionally a part of that season.  And I think it’s perfect for a day of Baptism.   This striking convergence, Palm Sunday leaning into Advent.  Hearing that in our collect for today as well: "when he shall appear again with power and great glory."  And so: Holy Week and Christmas.  Incarnation and Atonement.  The manger and the cross.  And again the haunting echo of the first chapter of John, our midnight reading Christmas Eve, as it was brutally made real with the shouts of the crowd, “Crucify him, crucify him!”: “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us,” and yet, “He came to his own home, and his own received him not.”

The tension is building in Matthew 25 as we move toward Holy Thursday and the Arrest and Trial and then all the catastrophe of Good Friday.  But it is a tension that is not just for those who lived a long time ago and far away.  The calendar twists and turns, folds back on itself.  And we’re looking into the mirror.  Across all the centuries. 

Asking this key question about readiness.  About living prepared lives.  About knowing the Bridegroom, who is on his way--about remaining awake, alert, preparing ourselves while we still have time, filling our lamps, leaning forward with eagerness to welcome him when he comes to the door.

It is a matter of decision.  To be prepared.   A choice.  The echoing of those central baptismal questions, as we have just heard them addressed to Quinn’s parents and godparents:

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?

There were two kinds of people in Jerusalem on that day.  Those who knew that he was the one the had been waiting for, and those who would do everything they could to tear him down.

In Matthew 25, Proper 27, Year A, in the Revised Common Lectionary, it’s Palm Sunday and almost Good Friday.  Here in Pittsburgh on Hampton Street, the Ninth of November, a crisp fall morning, the day of Quinn’s baptism, and almost Advent. 

The Bridegroom is coming, and coming soon: time for us to know and to be sure and to affirm with all our heart and all our mind and all our strength just how and where we fit in the story. 

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

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