This week I continue to serve as supply clergy for St. Thomas's Episcopal Church in Vernon NJ. We celebrated the Baptism of Our Lord today, with renewal of the Baptismal Covenant at 8 and three baptisms at 10! It was a wonderful worship celebration. The kids from Sunday School came up to stand around the Font so they could see. Afterward i had the disctinct honor to give Holy Communion to Ashley, the newly baptized adult. What a great day for the Church!
Here's what I offered at 10:
St. Thomas’s Episcopal Church, Vernon NJ
Epiphany 1 2008 (BCP) 10 AM
Isaiah 42:1-9; Ps 89:20-29; Acts 10:34-38; Matthew 3:13-17
The Rev. R. F. Solon, Jr.
May only God’s word be spoken, and only God’s word be heard. Amen.
Hasn’t the weather much of this past week been wonderful? A bit bizarre, though. It was over 60 degrees in
When I lived in
Today is a very important day in the life of
It’s appropriate to celebrate this today because it’s also the day when we remember that Our Lord also was baptized. Unlike, us, He didn’t need to be. After all, Jesus never sinned. He never was separated from God or from his fellow human beings or from the world like we are. The word “baptism” means “washing” or “bathing.” John the Baptist was baptizing people at the Jordan River in
God’s will for Jesus as his life unfolded was to do nothing less than reconcile everybody to God. And he of course did that, and by doing so, changed the nature of baptism forever. Jesus is baptized at the beginning of the Gospel, and we are commanded to continue to baptize at the end of the Gospel. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” What we are about to do today is part of God’s will, God’s plan for the universe. God wants all people to be reconciled to him, and that includes you and me and everyone. When we are baptized, God sends the Holy Spirit to inspire us. “Inspire” literally means “in-spirit” after all. Just like Jesus was inspired at the beginning of his public ministry, each of us is inspired as well. Each of us is part of God’s will, God’s plan for the universe. Like Jesus, each of us has some part to play, something to contribute, to the ongoing work of God in the world. Each of us is in-spired to do that work, that ministry, as God’s children. Individually we have gifts and talents – time, talent and treasure – that God gives us. If we are listening to that inspiration of the Spirit, we learn over time what God would have us do with those gifts, what ministry God calls each of us to do. It might be as simple as being right where one is, living one’s life, raising children, going to work, being a witness for Jesus by one’s very life. For some others it might be more direct, perhaps participating in something here at
For all of us, our ministries, whatever they are, our calling, flows directly from our baptisms, when each of us was implanted – inspired – with the Holy Spirit as a seed or a spark that can never be extinguished. And even though that spark is present, we may not know how to hear it or what to listen for. The bright lights of the world may overshadow the Light of Christ that lives inside each of us. And that’s where the Baptismal Covenant comes in. The Covenant which we and Ashley make when we’re baptized, or is made on our behalf if we’re children like Taylor and Brynn, commits us to certain thoughts and actions and patterns of life that can help us discover specifically what God would have us do. It isn’t a contract, which has terms and conditions. It’s unconditional. We are God’s beloved, period. Our joyful response to that realization is to commit ourselves to the Covenant, which outlines how to grow up as God’s children in the world. We don’t do it to earn God’s love, because we can’t. God can’t love us any more than God already does! We can’t earn salvation. It’s God’s free gift to us. And we can’t pay God back for salvation either. But we can pay it forward. We can, by our words and actions, make God’s love for us known to everyone. That’s the spirit of Epiphany, the season we’re in now – the urge to spread the Good News, not because we have to, but because we want to.
And the Baptismal Covenant helps us figure out what that might look like. It’s for both individuals as well as communities. Not every son or daughter of God is going to be gifted to be able to do everything in the Covenant equally well. But I do think that every Christian community, if it is healthy and strong in the Lord, will exhibit aspects of all the promises of the Covenant. I think the calling of
Brynn and Taylor are going to be enrolled in the Baptismal Covenant by their parents and godparents. Ashley will do so of her own free will. Taylor and Brynn don’t have much to do today. But we and their parents and sponsors do. We’re going to promise to make it possible for Ashley and Taylor and Brynn to listen to the Holy Spirit that in a few minutes will be implanted – inspired - in each of them, so that they can grow into the full stature of Christ that God intends for them. So they, too, can fulfill all righteousness and pay God’s love forward into the world. Neither we nor they know what that’s going to look like for them yet. But our job is to do everything we can to make that possible for them. That includes things the Covenant calls all of us to do, like regular worship, participation in the life of this or another worshipping community, and the other promises we’re about to make or renew. My prayer is that all of us, candidates, parents, sponsors, and all the members of
My friends, what we do today isn’t merely pouring a little water on foreheads of little babies. What we do today is more than simply declaring their names. It’s more than just “getting them done” at the church. What we do today is exactly what happened to Jesus at the
Come, let us gather at the river!