Sunday, July 28, 2019
Lectionary 17, Year C

The Baptism of Israel, Anthony, and Ethan

Prayer of the Day
Almighty and ever-living God, you are always more ready to hear than we are to pray, and you gladly give more than we either desire or deserve. Pour upon us your abundant mercy. Forgive us those things that weigh on our conscience, and give us those good things that come only through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Readings and Psalm
Genesis 18:20-32 Abraham bargains with God for the righteous of Sodom and Gomorrah
Psalm 138
Colossians 2:6-19 Buried with Christ in baptism, raised with him through faith
Luke 11:1-13 Jesus teaches the disciples to pray

Sermon
Title:  The Water that Connects

So, Israel, Ethan, and Anthony. A couple of months ago, we were all gathered here for your sister’s baptism.  Today, it is your turn.  Some things will be the same.  Some things will be different.  One thing that will certainly be different – I will not be picking you up to hold you in my arms.  You guys are a little too old and too big for that.  One thing that is both the same and different, is that like with Mia, I am using this time to talk to you about what is about to happen.  However, what is different, is that you guys will understand a little better what I am saying.  I think Mia slept the last time.  So, since you guys are more aware, I hope you will listen carefully and hear at least some of what I have to say to you.  (Anthony, since you’re the oldest, maybe you can help your brothers remember.)  Because it is really good news.  It’s the kind of good news that makes you warm from the inside.  And it’s the kind of warm that you feel even on a bad day when things don’t go so right.

Good news number one.  Today you are joining a really big family.  You already have the family you were born into. And that’s good. And you don’t have to leave them to join this new family.  You see today, you are joining a family that is so big that you can’t even count them all.  It’s not just the people who you see here today.  This family has people all over the world in it.  Wherever you go, you can find members of this family.  It is God’s family.  And God wants the best for this family, just like your parents want the best for your family.  God wants each of us to know that we are loved, and wants each one of us to love every member of the family, and God wants you to be loved by others.  Now sometimes people argue over who is in God’s family and who is not in God’s family.  I say, don’t argue about it, play it safe and treat everyone like they are in the family and deserved to be loved and well cared for.  Actually, Jesus said that same thing.  I’m just repeating it in some different words.

Good news number two.  There is more than water in that font.  I know, when you look in you see water.  When that water is poured on your head its going to feel like water.  As it falls back in the bowl it will sound like water.  And if you drank some, it would taste like water.  All your senses are telling you its water. But I tell you it is more than water.  In that water, God is making promises to you today.  (It’s sort of like when your mom kisses you good-bye if you’re going somewhere.  It’s not just a kiss.  It’s her telling you that she loves you and that she wants you to know that even when she isn’t around.)  And when that water is poured over your head, those promises from God will be poured into you forever.  Promises like – God will always be with you. If you only remember one thing that I say today, I hope you will remember that – God will always be with you.  Got that?  Oh, there will be times when God feels far away.  Some folks, folks who have lived a little longer than you, they might even be able to tell you stories about those times.  But even when we do not feel God, God is there.  Another promise – God will always love you.  (Maybe you can remember that right with remembering that God is always with you.)  No matter what happens in your life, remember God is there and God is loving you.  Some folks will say or think:  but I did this or that, or I said this or that.  And they will think God must really be mad at me, just like people get mad at me.  But you see, God isn’t like people.  You see, we people show love, along with other things, pleasant and not.  But God IS love.  God only knows how to love.  Okay, now I’m getting philosophical.  That means, this is stuff you can think about another time.

Moving on…Good news number three.  Since we can’t see God to know all that I am saying is really true, God sent Jesus so that we could see and hear all about this God who is love.  Jesus, whose birthday we celebrate at Christmas because he is the best present we have ever received, came and told stories about God, and made sad people happy and sick people feel better to help them know that God really does love them.  A little bit ago, I read a little part of Jesus’ story.  We call it the gospel, which is a fancy word for good news.  (Yes, we tell lots of good news around here.  There’s enough bad news out there.)  Anyway, what I read told us about one day when Jesus want his friends to know that wherever they went, whatever was happening to them, they were connected to God, and God was with them (like I said before) and that God was listening to them.  Jesus wanted his friends that they could talk to God just like they talk to their parents.  Just because they couldn’t see God, they did not have to be afraid.  The fancy word for talking to God is prayer.  When we pray, we are talking to God.  We can stay connected to one another with cell phones and computers.  We stay connected to God with prayer.  No special language is needed.  Sometimes a prayer can be a simple as: “Thank you God for this great day.”  Sometimes it can just be: “Help me, God.”  Sometimes people ask for things in prayer.  And when they don’t get what they wanted, they say: “God didn’t answer my prayer.”  Like the time I didn’t study for a test and I prayed, “God help me pass this test.”  Well, I didn’t.  Sometimes just like your parents have to say NO to you sometimes.  Sometimes God has to say NO to us.  Not out of anger.  But because God knows a whole lot more than we know.

Now there is a whole lot more to the Jesus story.  That’s why we get together here every Sunday and tell a little bit more of it.  The cross that you see all over reminds us that Jesus, sent to us from God, wanted to show us just how much God loves us.  He even gave his own life to save ours.  Sort of like when a fireman runs into a burning building to save someone inside.  And Jesus showed us that we will never be separated from God.  Today some of us are sad to hear that a friend of ours has died.  But we also know that, because God made promises at his baptism, he is still with God, even though he is no longer with us.

Lots of good news for you today.  Lots of promises that God is making with you today.  So much that there is no way that you can take it all in and understand it all.  None of us can.  I bet there are some folks sitting here today, that were baptized a long time ago, that have heard something new today, or who have a new understanding about God today.  Not because I know it all to tell you, but because this gift of baptism that God gives us is so big that we spend our whole lives learning about it and about how wonderful it is.  In fact, some people will, every morning when they wake up, will splash water on their face and say “I am a baptized child of God.”  You might want to try that one.  Like prayer, it is a good way to stay God-connected.  That way even if someone bullies you, or you have a bad day, or you do something you later realize was not such a good thing to do, no matter what happens to you, you remind yourself that God is with you,  God loves you, and that through Jesus, you are God-connected.

You got that?  That is the good news of your baptism.  God is with you.  God loves you.  Through Jesus you are always, always, always, God-connected.  And these promises from God are forever.

The Rev. Mark Erson, Pastor

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