Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Happy New Year! A sermon on what always stays the same.

January 1, 2017
Name of Jesus
Numbers 6:22-27
Psalm 8
Luke 2:15-21

Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen. 

But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance.

A great passage to hear on the day of a baptism, right?  And on the day we celebrate and remember the naming of Jesus.  Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man, is given his name by Joseph.  In ancient times, the giving of a name publicly showed the community to whom this child belonged.  As Joseph shared Jesus’ name, he was saying, this is my son. 

And in the waters of baptism, we too, are named as we claimed by God. 
We are reminded that this action…is God’s action…and that being washed in these waters welcomes us into the body of Christ, into the family of God. 

And as part of the family of God we are heirs, recipients of the inheritance of God, which is grace upon grace, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life. 

What can you do to get an inheritance? 

As an heir, you receive the inheritance, NOT because of anything you have done, but because it is a gift for you. 

And so it is the same with the grace of God.   There is NOTHING that we can do to earn that grace, love, forgiveness, and eternal life. 

It is a gift, a free gift, no strings attached.  Period.  End of sentence.  Full stop.   

That’s it.

So…what does that mean for us? 

We know that there is nothing that we can do to earn this gift, yet it has been given to us. 

And upon receiving this gift, we are free to share it with others.  We are free to love one another, free to care for one another, free to not worry about our own mortality and live in the here and now, and the joy of God’s love and grace. 

This free gift will not mean that life is smooth sailing from here on out, but it will mean that God is with us no matter what. 
And that is very good news. 
Washed in these waters, we are named, we are claimed, and we are sent to share this good news with others. 

Washed in these waters, just like Emmett Ash, we are welcomed into this family, knowing that there will always be a place for us…when we are happy or sad, when we are healthy or hurting, when we feel alone or forgotten, when we are able to love or when we are in need of love…there is a place for us. 
We are God’s chosen, we are God’s children. 

So maybe, just maybe the trickiest part of today’s message is that we are God’s…that is we belong to God.  And that all that is in our lives…our jobs, our families, our homes…none of these things are truly ours….they are all gifts from God for us. 

The tricky part is realizing – yet again – that God is in control and all that we have and all that we are is God’s. 
That’s what happens in these waters…
That’s what happens in this family…
There is an element of letting go…yet in that moment of letting go, God continues to hold us. 

God continues to put us first…to gather us in, to care for us, provide for us, so that we are free to do the same for others. 

I want to share a poem by Kahlil Gibran, called On Children. (Found in the book The Prophet

And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, "Speak to us of Children." 
And he said: 
Your children are not your children. 
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. 
They come through you but not from you, 
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. 
You may give them your love but not your thoughts. 
For they have their own thoughts. 
You may house their bodies but not their souls, 
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. 
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. 
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. 
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. 
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. 
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness; 
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.


Your children, are not your children…they are God’s children, as are we. 

What I would love for us to this day, as you feel able…is to come forward, come dip your fingers in the font, make the sign of the cross on your forehead…remember to whom you belong…and who will be with you always…until the end of the age. 
As you come forward, we will listen to a version of this poem called Of Children by Sweet Honey in the Rock 


The sermon ended in the same way on Saturday and Sunday, but also differently…
We closed with a time of prayer at the font…remembering that as we go into a new year we are called to remember who we are….and who’s we are.  What unites us in a diverse world is our baptism in to the family of God, into the Body of Christ, and that will guide us into this new year and God will be with us eternally.  And all God's people said, Amen.  

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