Here's my sermon for yesterday. Some of it is in note form, so it's a bit choppy.
St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, Vernon
Proper 7A RCL 2008
Gen 21:8-21; Ps 86:1-10,16-17; Romans 6:1b-11; Matthew 10:24-39
The Rev. R. F. Solon, Jr., Vicar
May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, by always acceptable in your sight, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
Water. Most abundant thing on earth.
Saw water yesterday – several gardens had ponds, I think all had some sort of water feature – my favorite part of any garden.
Always liked water – boats, next to water, very relaxed when I’m around it.
Also scared of water – fell in duck pond when I was very young, never learned to swim very much. I have a Very complicated relationship with water. Most of us do.
Required for Life.
Giver of death.
In Paul’s time, most Jewish people had a complicated relationship too, but in nature, it was mostly a negative one.
Creation – the primordial waters before the Spirit of God moverd over the face of the waters.
Story of Noah that we heard a few weeks ago
The Red Sea – had to be parted to they could escape Pharoah
Psalm 23: lead me beside still waters
Psalm 63: Save me, O Lord, for the waters have risen up to my neck
Psalm 93: the waters have lifted up their voice, the waters have lifted up their pounding waves
Some went down to the sea in ships *
and plied their trade in deep waters;
24 They beheld the works of the Lord *
and his wonders in the deep.
25 Then he spoke, and a stormy wind arose, *
which tossed high the waves of the sea.
26 They mounted up to the heavens and fell back to the depths; *
their hearts melted because of their peril.
27 They reeled and staggered like drunkards *
and were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, *
and he delivered them from their distress.
29 He stilled the storm to a whisper *
and quieted the waves of the sea.
30 Then were they glad because of the calm, *
and he brought them to the harbor they were bound for.
Story of Jonah in the boat.
Even today – Katrina, the Myanmar and Philippines cyclones, the flooding in the Midwest.
The vicarage too!
Since the Jewish people lived inland, they never developed much of an appreciation for water – they mostly distrusted it.
This explains Paul’s very odd linkage of the water of baptism and death. “Do you not know that all who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death?” Baptism was a dunking – it was like a drowning. To come up from the waters was literally a new birth. We are drowned symbolically and our old lives pass away in baptism. We receive new life, a life that is new because our sins are washed away and we are adopted as God’s own sons and daughters. “For whoever has dies is freed from sin.” That’s both physical as well as spiritual…
Then follows a beautiful and succinct summary of what Jesus accomplished by his death and resurrection:
We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death has no more dominion over him.
The death he died, he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God.
So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin, and alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Nothing, not sin, not even death, can separate us from the love of God.
Always remember that. You and I are dead to sin. It’s not that we cannot or will not sin. Of course we will. We’re only human. We will bend or break our relationships with each other. We’ll get angry at each other. We’ll hurt each other, sometimes terribly. We’ll get jealous of each other. We’ll resent one another. We’ll continue to do all the things we humans have always done to each other. But there is a difference. We know that the things we do are already forgiven. All we have to do is ask. That’s why we confess our sins each Sunday. Even though we know that we are dead to sin, we still sin, we still stumble and fall. And then, we reach for God’s saving arm, God’s grace, and God in Jesus picks us up and sets us back on our feet. And then Jesus feeds us of himself as strength to keep us going. We know that, as Christians, our calling and our joy is to show the love of God to each other that God already shows us. And so we’ll go back outside into Vernon Township and we’ll try again.
Look at the order of our worship. First, we pray for others and ourselves. Then we admit that we haven’t lived up to God’s love in our lives, and we receive forgiveness. We then live out that forgiveness in our lives right here and now by greeting each other in peace. Then and only then, once we have done a tiny bit to reconnect, to reconcile the world to itself and to God, do we approach the Altar for the sacrament that proclaims and makes real the absolute reconciliation of God to you and to me in Jesus.
My sisters and brothers, you know I often try to offer something practical to do over the course of the week to deepen your life with God. This week, my advice is to simply rest in your reconnection with God. Like Jesus, you died and were born again in the awful, awesome waters of baptism. You can never be disconnected from God again. This week, simply consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.In the Name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity. Amen.
O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your lovingkindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.