HOMILY FOR JULY 29, 2018 – THE REV. STEPHANIE SHEPARD
Pentecost 12, July 29, 2018
St. John the Apostle
“From Death to Life”
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
It was a difficult decision. It was the right decision. When twelve boys and their coach became trapped in the Chiang Mai cave system in Thailand, a rescue plan was needed. Various possibilities were suggested. Wait until the monsoon season was over and the cave was no longer flooded. Dig down to the cave from the outside. Or teach the boys to scuba dive and guide them out the way they entered. The first option was abandoned as it became clear that oxygen levels were falling in the cave. It was too dangerous to delay. The second route was unfeasible because the cave was too far underground and drilling could destabilize the rock. It would also take much too long. But the boys were weak and most were unable to swim. The water that kept them alive for nine days was the same that trapped them there.
Imagine the parents and families that kept vigil with the rest of us in the world. For seventeen days fighting back fear and panic at the thought of their child’s imminent danger. It was after the death of one of the rescuers that they began to really understand how enormous the risks were. Prayers for successful recovery were accompanied by a bold third plan, involving many helpers. One by one the boys were fitted with breathing gear and roped to expert rescue divers. They had to surrender completely and trust that the narrow, dark, underwater passage would bring them from death into life. As they were brought into the light, their loved ones gave thanks. Death had been defeated this time.
The world is full of dangerous places. As parents, we know that we can only protect our children so far. At some point, they will encounter people and situations that can hurt them. Our role is to teach them to make good choices, to be loving and compassionate individuals, and to trust in the One that can guide them from death into life. This is why we baptize.
Look around you. All is not right. It is our human condition that we live in a world that is fallen from relationship with the Creator. It is marred by competition, pride, hatred, and fear. We build walls to keep people out who are not like us. We do not want to share because we are afraid that there will not be enough. We are scared to love because we will be hurt or condemned by others. No baby is sinful. But each infant is born into this dangerous life. Who will make things right?
The good news is that God is putting things right through Jesus Christ. He is the One sent to rescue us from being asphyxiated by the toxins of this world. When we are willing to answer in love the One who first loves us, the Holy Spirit throws us a rope and guides us through a dark and narrow passageway into the light. We know that when a child comes into the world, he or she goes through the birth canal and is born in water and blood. In the Church we say that we are baptized into the death of Christ because this sacrament of water is a symbol of our passage of rebirth into the resurrection life. God comes to us and draws us out. What God has done in Jesus breaks down all the barriers that keep us trapped and apart from experiencing the world as God wants it to be.
The book of Ephesians is thought by some to be a preparation manual for baptism. In its first two chapters, the writer tells us what God has done to unite all things that had been broken apart by sin. In the last three chapters, we are invited to response to God’s work by living out the resurrection life. And in the middle as a hinge is the reading of Ephesians 3:14-21. This amazing passage is a baptismal prayer for the community. In it, the apostle asks for four things:
- That we be strengthened in our inner being
- That we be vessels for Christ dwelling within us
- That we be empowered to know what God has done for us
- That we be filled with the understanding of the love of Christ
This is a love that we can’t think our way into. We have to allow God to make a home in our hearts and trust that promise of new life. How much can we trust God? All the way- just as those boys had to trust their rescuers to bring them out of that cave. It wasn’t something they could do by themselves. They needed help.
As adults, we can make decisions of our own to respond to the love of God in Christ Jesus. Because we want our children to know this love too, we are willing to risk trusting them to God. The families of Makena and Avery are showing great courage this morning by bringing their little ones to the sacrament of baptism. They know that they cannot protect their children from all the dangerous things in this world. They can’t keep them from experiences of hurt. But they can bring these little ones to the One who makes all things right. Jesus Christ is the one who has walked in the dark places and come out the other side victorious. He is the one who has conquered death and broken down all divisions. And Jesus is the one that can be trusted in this world and beyond.
Baptism is a challenge to those in the world who think they are doing alright and to those who think that we are all doomed. It is the third way. It is the way of admitting that all is not right, and that humanity is not capable of fixing what we have broken, but that God forgives, redeems, and guides us into abundant life. It is a difficult decision. It is the right decision. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
August 17, 2018
August 17, 2018
August 17, 2018