A Sermon for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, July 14, 2018
Calvary Episcopal Church, Flemington, New Jersey
God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ.
This morning we are baptizing Griffin Loeffler. As beautiful as Griffin is, he is not old enough to talk about it. In all likelihood he won’t directly remember what we do today. So what is it that we are doing? What we are doing, is that TOGETHER we are being Christ’s body, the Church.
Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, … so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.” We will live for the praise of God’s glory, because we participate together in the Resurrection of Christ. What we are doing is not an empty ritual of the past, but the essential way we live into the future.
This is serious business, so I am going to go through what we will be doing in a minute. If you would like to follow along, you can open your red prayer books to page 302.
We are all called, not only the godparents, but all Christians who take responsibility for being baptized into Christ—we are all called to support this child and his parents so that he can be brought up in the Christian faith and life. This means that we have to be the Church, and live our Christian life in our daily work and society, so that there will exist for this child and others who will be the Church of the 21st century, a Christian faith and life to grow up in. We are called to live in the Truth, and not give into the real forces of evil that exist in this world.
The baptismal service is about how we do that. We renounce the spiritual forces and evil powers of this world that corrupt and destroy the creatures of God. These aren’t demons like spooks in movies or on TV. Likening these evil powers to TV shows is one of the ways that we avoid living in the truth. Destructive spiritual powers exist in the real world and they are—what? They are the behavior of real human beings who are acting in their own self-interest and who, usually, are telling themselves they aren’t doing these things. That they’re not behaving with prejudice—even hatred—toward their neighbor because of the color of his skin, or where she went to school, or what country he was born in. Other people are destroyed by that kind of behavior, and nobody takes responsibility for that kind of evil human creation. Christians are called on to renounce those things, to renounce hatred and racism, and prejudice; to renounce disrespecting others because of where they come from, or their education, or social status. Doing this is not simple, it’s not a matter of saying it one time and then forgetting it. Renouncing the spiritual forces of wickedness is a lifetime affair, we discover the workings of those powers in our environment and in ourselves over and over throughout our lives.
If we are truthful, we recognize that we do not have the power to defeat those powers, even in our personal lives, let alone in the society around us, where we see manifestations every day in the news. Fascism and terrorism feed on one another, and neither our anger nor our fear can do anything but help them grow. The power that can defeat the forces of hatred, death and destruction is the grace of God in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. In him, God has the courage that we need to live honestly and with care for all God’s children.
If we continue on pages 304 and 305, this is the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, this is how we persevere in resisting evil, this is the Good News that we proclaim, this is how we seek and serve Christ in all persons and strive for justice and peace, respecting the dignity of every human person. Christ went through everything that we go through; that any one of us goes through. He died. Real death. He was, from beginning to end, a human being from God’s perspective, entirely human, entirely the incarnation of the love of God. His heart was filled with the truth, and he could see the forces of death and destruction—and he loved all those people, yes those who were allied with the forces of death against him—yet he took not those powers of wickedness into his heart.
The word courage is derived from the word for heart—in Jesus, God has the courage for all of us, to live and to reject those forces of evil all around us and have life. As Christians we live in hope—not in wishful thinking, or in fearful apprehension about the future. Hope is the sure knowledge of God’s love in the present and the future, hope is knowing the trustworthiness of Christ. God raised him from the dead so that we live with him and in him without fear. Even if we might be afraid or sad at time we share in the joy of Jesus as he shares his compassion for us. “We who were the first to set our hope in Christ now live for the praise of his glory.”
So we do this together. In baptizing Griffin, we are joining once again into our own baptism into Christ. It is a serious challenge, on a beautiful summer morning, to join in the life of Jesus and live in courage and integrity in a world that is often lacking in both. But it is only in this courageous truthfulness that we have the freedom to live in the joy of God, to live beyond ourselves in the praise of God. We do this together as a community, encompassing all our families. Griffin has a mom and a dad, Erin and Cavan. They clearly love him and do everything to make his life joyful and fruitful. So does Colin, Griffin’s big brother. In baptizing Griffin, we participate in and support that love. In fact, as we welcome a new child into our midst, we become the Body of Christ.
Thus our lesson today concludes:
“In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation and had believed him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.”
Let us now proceed to seal Griffin as part of God’s own people, and the praise of the glory of God.