In pm's words
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November 5, 2017, 8:00 AM

the one about that blessing...


Sermon from November 5, 2017 - All Saints Sunday and the Rite of Baptism for Samuel James Holland

Text: Matthew 5:1-12

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and redeemer; amen!

So, at first glance… today might seem like we are smashing two divergent parts of faith into one service. Technically, you’d be correct. But, there’s more going on here this morning than you might have noticed.

As we began our worship service this morning, we did so honoring and remembering those who have died and whose funeral services were either held here at Redeemer or the church participated greatly in the service. Some of those names we called out you know very well, and some might be ones you have never heard. Regardless, we honor and remember those who have died. Coming up in our prayers, you’ll be given the opportunity to speak aloud the names of those people who have died in your life outside this community and we will toll the bell for them as well.

All Saints Sunday allows us that space to remember those who are no longer with us. It can be a very sad day – I’ve talked with a few and I have overheard a few conversations pertaining just to that. This day can be difficult. It is hard for us to remember those who are no longer present with us without that sadness. On this day, I think of friends and family members who have died that helped shaped me into the person and pastor I am today.

At times, it might seem odd that we as Lutherans – who don’t celebrate ‘saints’ the way that other sisters and brothers in the Christian faith do – would set aside this sort of day. The church sets aside All Saints Day to remember all the faithful who came before us. It is a chance for us to remember together, to grieve together for the recently departed, and to remember the lessons of their lives and faithfulness.

It is a day that we remember that we didn’t get here on our own. We have been shaped and molded; guided and prodded; pushed and pulled in our faith by others. Everyone has a story about someone who helped them in their faith along the way; a grandparent, a parent, a friend, a pastor, a child, a stranger – each of us has been shaped in our faith by others. It is what makes us a community. It is through that shaping and helping from others that we become strong in our faith in the ways in which we are challenged.

Challenged where our beliefs and thoughts might differ, but also challenged as we see others live into the life of faith in specific ways – as others have modeled for us.

This day, we remember, we mourn, we celebrate, we look to the future, we recognize our own responsibilities in this life of faith for others.

For together – as integral parts of the body of Christ – we remember that we are the gathered saints. Gathered with those who have come before us, gathered with those around us, and gathered with those yet to come. We are the gathered ones – along with all those gathered around the world - who come to worship in praise and thanksgiving of what God has done, is doing, and will do in the life of the world – in our lives.

So, this day, we remember those who have shaped us along this odd and wonderous path of faith. In that remembrance, we also see our place in the lives of others – as saints, as a part of the gathered multitude.

And it is in that space and knowledge that we turn to our other celebration today – for today Samuel James Holland is baptized. It is here where we recognize that God has called him as God’s own. It is this day that he is washed and welcomed into this community and family.

It is on this day that we surround not only Sam, but also his parents – Anne and Andy – with our prayers and support.

It is on this day that we together become examples and models of faith for him, just as those before us were examples and models of faith for each of us. It is also where we remember how we are continued examples of faith for one another. Striving and working together in this crazy little thing called the life of faith.

That’s powerful stuff right there. Each of us as a part in one another’s life as it comes to our faith. We are invested in one another. Invested in living together this life of faith.

On this day, we hear our Lord Jesus speak from the mountain about all those who are blessed. When we hear those blessings, it catches us off guard and then I think we interpret that blessing in ways that might not always be productive.

In my talks with colleagues and other pastors this week (not to mention in my visits to those in need) we talked about blessings. When we read this text, it sometimes feels as if we receive and respond to these blessings passively.

You that are hungry? You’re blessed, you’ll be fed. You that are mourning? You’re blessed, you’ll find comfort.

Where we recognize that if we just wait around long enough, our blessing will just turn into whatever it is that we need.

I think that’s kind of dangerous, and continues to turn our God into the Americanized religious vending machine genie. Where we just wait in hope that God will just magically wiggle a nose and nod a head and things will be made ‘perfect’ for us.

Sam, I’m going to tell you now – the temptation will be great throughout your life to believe that God works like that. For today, you indeed are set a part. God’s blessing is laid upon you and your future in faith is wide open and full of wonderful possibilities.

But, it won’t always be easy. Sometimes it will seem unfair. There will be days where that blessing might feel like salt in a wound. There will be times (probably more than once) where you’ll think or cry out, “Why?”

In those days, you and we will remember a few things.

First and foremost. On the day of your baptism, as your parents brought you to this font out of love, faith and hope. You were washed. Not washed so that you could finally be clean in God’s eyes; to finally be clean enough for God to love you. No. Not at all.

In these waters, you and we will remember that in our baptisms we are washed so that we might know what God already knows – that we are good. We are loved. We are welcomed. God has already declared us – declared you – good. In our baptism we get to know what God already knows.

Sometimes it’ll be hard to remember that. But, remember it nonetheless. You. Are. Good. God has declared it so.

Then, you’ll remember with us all those who came before. You’ll remember those saints in your life – those who are already present there and those who you have yet to encounter. You’ll be filled with faithful examples and models about hospitality, love, service, prayer, and more.

You’ll remember that you too are a part of this wonderful, crazy, and eclectic mixture of people.

You’ll hear stories of these models of faith, how they took particular pleasure in God’s beauty through art and song; wanting to share that beauty with others. You’ll hear stories of those saints who used humor and laughter to help spread God’s message of love. You’ll hear stories of how we take care of and nurture what God has given us so that we and others might be fed to live out this life of faith. You’ll hear stories of living out that radical hospitality, reaching out to and care for those whom others have cast aside.

You’ll hear the stories of the saints who helped shape us in faith and in turn help shape you as well.

You’ll remember that in these waters you are blessed. That on the day you were baptized we celebrated God’s presence. We celebrated the fullness and completeness of God’s presence. From the beginning of our life, to the washing and welcoming into the community, to the life and (at times) great ordeal that we live, in our death, and beyond; God is present with you.

That is our blessing. In that blessing – in that faith and hope that God is already here – in that faith that you have been called and saved through what God has already done in Christ our Lord – we get to be active in that faith and blessing.

We don’t just sit around. In the faith and knowledge that we are blessed, in the faith of what we have already received freely and graciously from God – we live into and actively participate in those promises that your parents and your community will make today. Those same promises that you too will sit with and join in on in the future.

Today we remember All the Saints of our life. Today we celebrate the baptism of Samuel James Holland.

Today, we remember that each of us is blessed by God.

Today, we remember that in that blessing, God is indeed present with us.

Knowing that God is indeed present with us, we get to participate and live out those blessings and this life of faith for others. Amen.

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