Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Worst Thing Will Never Be the Last Thing

Christ Lutheran Church on Capitol Hill, St Paul
November 6, 2016
All Saints Sunday/Baptism of Micah Aaron Haddorff
Ephesians 1:15-18; Luke 6:20-31

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

A little boy came home from Sunday School, where he and his classmates had just learned about the creation stories in Genesis--and he was just bursting with questions.

“Mommy,” he asked.   “Is it true that we are created from dust and when we die we return to dust?”

“Yes,” his mom replied, cautiously, “Why do you ask?”

“Well you gotta come upstairs real quick and look under my bed—‘cuz I’m pretty sure someone’s either coming or going!!”

A story like that just might cause us take a fresh look at all the dust bunnies around our homes!

And while we’re at it we might a fresh look at some other things, too….like…this baptismal font.

For just as certainly as we come from dust and return to dust…we also--we whose bodies are at least 70% water—we also come from the water and return to the water of our baptism into Christ.

We could even say that someone’s either coming or going, right here at Christ Lutheran, whenever the water of baptism is poured out as it shall be today for little Micah…

…and whenever we dip our fingers in the water and retrace the mark on our brows, we do so as people who are always “coming and going” not just from the dust of this good earth, but from the waters of our submersion with the Crucified and Risen Christ.

Baptism after all, at its core, is a dying and a rising, as St Paul says:   “We have been buried with [Christ] by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”  (Romans 6:4)   

Martin Luther, playing off St Paul, declared that Baptism “signifies that the old person in us with all sins and evil desires is to be drowned and die through daily sorrow for sin and through repentance, and on the other hand that daily a new person is to come forth and rise up to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”  (Small Catechism, ELW p. 1165)

Which is to say:  when we baptize someone or even just whenever we remember our baptism, someone is always coming and going, dying and rising again.  

Oh sure, we take all kinds of pictures and try to freeze the moment of baptism in our memories….but Baptism resists all such efforts to encase it in the past.

Baptism is never a static thing.  It is always our daily starting point--our ongoing life, our perpetual returning to baptism, our daily dying and rising with Christ.  

So I love how you folks at Christ Lutheran always position the baptismal font right here, located smack dab in the center of your worship-space.

For truly, this font and everything that happens here, marks our whole life of faith, hope and love in Jesus Christ.  This font is “front and center,” precisely because it is our rescue-place, our GPS locator, the command center where we receive our marching orders in God’s mission.   Someone’s always coming or going here… 

All our crookedness is straightened out here, all our waywardness made right here, all our thin and fragile hope revived here, all our pathway through life illuminated here!

The font is where it all begins, where—truly--all the saints whom we remember on this All Saints Sunday…the font is where we’ve all been birthed, into Christ Jesus.

So please, my dear friends, if anyone ever asks you if you’ve been born again….please don’t skip a beat, but answer clearly:  “Yes, yes, yes, I’ve been born again and again and again….and again.”

For we are always turning and returning to our starting point.  Our baptism is never stuck in the past.  What baptism launches us into is a whole unfolding life of beholding how our God is turning us, and turning our whole world around.

Jesus proclaims that good news in this bracing “steel-cut oatmeal” Gospel lesson.  What an astonishing Great Reversal is described here in Luke 6, set in motion by blessings and woes that Jesus utters, to upend the world and call into question all the cherished assumptions we live by.

Truly, this perpetual coming and going, this death-and resurrection way of life in Christ—it turns everything upside down.

What does this new Kingdom a’ coming, this “glorious and gentle rule of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord”—what does it look like? 

Surprise!  It looks like losers (losers, about whom we’ve heard so much during this agonizing presidential campaign!)…the Kingdom looks like losers trading places with winners.  For in Jesus’ topsy-turvy Kingdom everything and everyone gets re-valued.   

Down-and-outers, those with growling stomachs, the forsaken and the reviled….those who’re dismissed as “losers” are lifted up….granted seats of honor at the Royal Table—switching places with those we usually regard as “winners”—all the wealthy, self-satisfied, happy, popular ones.  

Jesus’ blessings-and-woes here in Luke 6 point us ahead to Jesus’ own Great Reversal, the Cross where Jesus surely looked like the world’s biggest loser, and the Empty Tomb where God made it crystal clear that all bets are off, and that absolutely nothing in this world is as it appears to be.

What Jesus talks about here, as it finds a home in our hearts, as it animates the choices we make, the path that we take….as all that happens, Jesus’ way with us will be the end of us—the end of the us we were all born with, the ancient Eve and the old Adam who resides deep in our bones—this old you, this old me, will not survive our walk with Jesus.

Loving enemies, treating haters kindly, embracing those whose lips drip with curses, praying for those who make life miserable, turning the other cheek, cheerfully parting with the shirts off our backs….all those ways of being and acting in the world will certainly be the death of us, the death of that old you, that ancient “me, myself and I” who temporarily resides within us. 

Jesus is forever opening up a new way of life that evicts our tired, old, sinful selves….so as to make room for the new creature, the new person whom Lord Jesus is forever calling forth.

That’s what happens here in this refreshing, restoring water of baptism.   That and that alone transforms us from sinners to saints.

Here, precisely here, in our baptism into Christ, God right-sizes our hearts, and right-wises our ways of thinking and believing and acting…granting us a hope that will never disappoint us, an inheritance that can never be taken from us, an indelible cross-shaped seal on our foreheads that cannot be erased. 

And here’s the best news of all:  our baptismal dying and rising with Christ, our resurrection here at the font means that the worst thing that happens to us will never be the last thing that happens to us!

Let me say that again:  resurrection means that the worst thing that happens to us will never be the last thing that happens to us!

And if all this sounds like just one more election year whopper…one final “liar, liar, pants on fire” campaign promise….please don’t  just take my word on it.

Listen rather, as our lesson from Ephesians puts it…listen rather for the quiet but compelling, convicting voice of the Holy Spirit, who alone makes us wise and lets us understand what it means to know God.  

On our own, all of this talk about the Great Reversal, can seem like a walk in the fog.  

But even in the fog, we never travel alone. The Spirit hounds us, finds us, turns us in our waywardness….so that light will flood our hearts and…we will understand the hope that was given to us when God chose us, in Christ Jesus the crucified and resurrected one, whose coming and going, whose own unending life becomes forever ours in the liberating water and Word of Baptism. 

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

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