Sunday, July 3, 2016

Seventh after Pentecost

Proper 9C1    Luke 10: 1-20
Baptism of Brody Potter Harris

Good morning.  A holiday weekend, and we might note for Brody’s Baby Book that on the occasion of his baptism there were flags and parades and fireworks from sea to shining sea!  Especially appropriate for a family so dedicated to the service of our country here on the eve of Independence Day.  A  celebration here in the Church Militant, and we know in the realms of heaven, as the Church Triumphant joins the choir with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.  That’s poetry in a way, but also reality.  It’s a simple thing that happens at the font, but simplicity is often deceptive.  There isn’t anything more important in heaven or on earth than what happens when Christian people gather faithfully by and in and through the waters of baptism to be joined to the death and resurrection and eternal life of our savior Jesus Christ.  The ancient stain of our sin and rebellion against God washed away by his sacrifice.  The power of the Evil One turned to crushing defeat.  A truly new life begins!

Last Sunday in the second part of the 9th chapter of Luke we turned a corner in the story as Jesus and his disciples come down from their mountaintop experience of Transfiguration.  The time has arrived, his “hour,” and he “sets his face toward Jerusalem.”  Now begins the long procession toward  Holy Week and the Cross.  In last Sunday’s gospel reading we’ll remember that the party attempted to stop on the first night in a Samaritan village—but that they were turned away, refused hospitality.  Just the beginning of what will be a steadily gathering crescendo of rejection, opposition, persecution.  The disciples didn’t handle the situation well.  We might say, not a very Christian response.  They immediately wanted to call down a blast of fire from heaven to punish and destroy the Samaritans.  Jesus calms them and encourages them to continue on the journey in a different spirit. 

This morning’s reading from the first part of Luke 10 gives us another moment in this journey to Jerusalem.  We notice that in addition to his near circle of the 12 Jesus is accompanied by a larger crowd.  Here he sends a group of 70 two by two to announce his coming in the  towns and villages along the way.  The point not simply to arrange for lodging and hospitality, but even more to preach the Good News and to recruit new disciples.  Repentance and the forgiveness of sins.  To announce that the savior is on his way to Jerusalem.   “The harvest is plentiful,” he tells them.  “The laborers are few.”  Even 70, traveling two by two, won’t be enough to knock on every door.  (So Brody doesn’t need to worry at all that there won’t be anything left for him to do in the life and mission of the church when he gets a little older and is ready to help!)  At the same time the incident of the Samaritan village is fresh in their memories, and Jesus reminds them of that as well.  There are going to be doors slamming in their faces, and worse.  “I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.”    There are some who will welcome them and him, who will hear the word and receive it with joy.  Others will turn away with a sneer, or worse.  Being an ambassador of Christ isn’t going to be all sunshine and fair breezes.  There will be opposition all along the way.

That’s the reality of the life we are dedicating Brody to here this morning.  Joy in the Lord, but not an easy joy.  To paraphrase the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who wrote about "Costly Discipleship," today we approach a “costly joy.”  The life of faith and obedience always to encounter cross winds and storms and steep uphill climbs.  Sometimes the edge of the sword, even torture and death, and sometimes simply what happens when you’re swimming against the tide of time and culture.  Sheep in the midst of wolves.

The disciples are encouraged to be steadfast as they head out into their mission.  I’m reminded of the wonderful verse in First Peter chapter 5 that is one of the set readings from scripture in Compline, the Prayer Book service before going to bed at night.  “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, like a roaring lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour; whom resist steadfast in the faith.”  I remember hearing that verse as a child and being so caught up with it.  A roaring lion!   It may be that we tell our kids as they go to bed at night that there are no monsters under the bed or in the closet.  But of course we know better.  When Brody gets older we’ll need to explain this to him: there are monsters.  There is a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.  This is situation normal.    Sometimes the enemy out in the open, sometimes in deep disguise.  The small Jewish villages of Chorazin and Bethsaida and Capernaum might have seemed like friendly territory at first, certainly safer than that Samaritan village.  These were the hometowns to many of Jesus’s disciples, right down the road from Nazareth.  Places where many are willing to greet Jesus with a round of polite applause.  He was a local boy, after all, from down the road in Nazareth.  But appearances can be deceiving, and the spiritual reality sets them with Sodom and Tyre and Sidon and all the great cities that have fallen under the shadow of darkness by choosing the path of sin rather than the way of obedience to God.  We expect our enemies to look like enemies, dangerous monsters to look like monsters, lions to look and sound like roaring lions--but the betrayal and rejection and opposition that the disciples will face will so often come from those who are near.  Who look like friends and family.

So the word to Brody this morning—this isn’t an easy course we’re signed up for.  Starting right here at this font.  Fun baby pictures and balloons and cake and family celebrations are entirely appropriate, but even so, this is serious business.

Then in our reading this morning the conclusion of the mission of the 70.  Pretty exciting. Even in a world of monsters and wolves and roaring lions!  If the disciples got failing marks at the Samaritan village, this time things go much better.  The word is proclaimed with clarity and strength.  The workers sent  into the harvest to announce the transforming power of the gospel--and “even the demons” scatter at their approach.  Teacher Jesus writes a glowing comment of encouragement at the top of the paper.  “A+, guys!  While you were out there, I could see “Satan falling like lightning from heaven.’”  What you are doing in these little villages along the road today may seem small.  The conversation with a villager.  A quiet prayer with someone  ill or distressed or in grief.  A word of encouragement and forgiveness and hope to one who is lost in sin and doesn’t see any way out.  To stand at the door of a home and pronounce a blessing in the name of the Lord.  No headlines there.  No earthshaking miracles.  But nonetheless of eternal significance.  You’ve seen wonderful things happen around you, disciples and friends.  Certainly worth celebrating.  But celebrate this, that though these victories seem small and transitory, they are recorded in heaven.  Our cheers here simply a foretaste of the abundant  banquet of joy and feasting and thanksgiving in the realms of the Father.  And you, and we, are part of that. 

Here at this font on a summer morning.  What a joy and privilege.  Thank you, Mike and Anna, and Bradley and Brycen, two great big brothers, I know--and our godparents and family and friends and good people of St. Andrew’s.  The reality is that all creation, everything in heaven and on earth, turns to this place and to this moment.  To welcome the Lord to his holy Temple and among his people and in their hearts and minds and lives, to hear and receive his Good News.    “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”  A big deal.  The key moment in the story.  A joy and a privilege as disciples of Jesus to be a part of it.

Now I would ask Brody Potter Harris and his family and his godparents to come forward to continue the baptismal office.

No comments: