Sunday, January 9, 2011

Yes, You

A sermon for Baptism of our Lord, Year A - Isaiah 42:1-9, Matthew 3:13-17

Every generation has a few movies that define the era of their adolescence. John Hughes was the director of so many of the ones that spoke to many of my fellow Gen X’ers. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink all have a place in the majority of our hearts. But the one that I will actually stop to sit down and watch in all of its rerun glory is Sixteen Candles.

In Sixteen Candles Matthew Schoeffling played a gorgeous and popular high school senior while Molly Ringwald – an 80’s movie icon – played the awkward sophomore with a crush on him. Add in a gawky Anthony Michael Hall and hilarity ensued as Matthew’s character slowly began to realize that being cool, fun parties and a beautiful girlfriend were really not what life is all about. At the end of the movie, as Molly is coming out of the church where her sister has just been wed she looks out to see him, leaning against his car and giving her a cool wave.

It is the moment we have been waiting 90 minutes of riveting drama to reach. He waves to her and she… well, she looks behind her and then back at him and says, “Me?”
“Yes, you.”

I dare say we have all had our own ‘yes, you’ moments. Maybe not in teenage romance and maybe without the exaggerated turn of the head… but somewhere in life we have been chosen and experienced the mix of excited yet disbelieving emotion.

Our Old Testament passage this morning is from the prophet Isaiah proclaiming the better things to come. This is not the usual tone of his rhetoric. Usually Isaiah spend his time warning Israel that doom is near and that they need to change the way they do things, or else. They are not worthy of the Lord who has brought them out of Egypt and they had better shape up.

So when we turn to the first of what are historically known as the Servant Songs of Isaiah and he proclaims that the Lord has said:
Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;

One can easily imagine the formerly berated people of Israel saying, “Who… me?”

Yes, you.

A similar statement is uttered by John the Baptist whose entire ministry is based on pointing towards the one who is greater than him who is yet to come. In the passage that was read this morning, suddenly the one who is to come is standing right before him and asking to be baptized. The Gospel of Matthew tells it like this:
John would have prevented (Jesus), saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.”

That is NRSV speak for:
“Who, me?”
“Yes, you.”

Important to note that the next line from Matthew is, “Then he consented.”

When you are called by God it is okay to be surprised by it, it is NOT okay to hold back from what God is asking you to do. It is not okay to hold back from being who God is calling you to be.

Yes, you.

Today is a special day both in the life of the church universal and in the life of this specific church; Mechanicsburg Presbyterian. Universally Christians celebrate the sacrament of Baptism today. Many congregations renew their baptismal vows and some even get sprayed with water again. We might do that sometime – not today.

We are not stepping too far out of the lectionary box though because we are ordaining and installing elders and deacons and that in and of itself is a celebration of baptismal vows. These folks have responded to the love of Christ for them by committing themselves as officers of the church. God has called them and they have responded.

Our celebration of them and the liturgy that goes with it includes a reaffirmation of their baptismal vows. When you are baptized in the church you – or your parents – are asked three questions. When you become a member of the church you are asked these same three questions. And when you respond to the call of God in your life to become an officer of the church you are once again asked these three questions:

1) Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Lord and Savior, trusting in his grace and love? Do you?
2) Will you be Christ’s faithful disciple, obeying his Word and showing his love? Will you?
3) Trusting in the gracious mercy of God, do you turn from the ways of sin and renounce evil and its power in the world? Do you?

Yesterday I came home from the Officer’s Retreat, grabbed a late lunch and attempted a nap. It wasn’t long before emails started piling in my inbox, causing my iPod to chime, “ping… ping… ping…”
There were so many that I gave up on sleep, grabbed the iPod and started reading.

The emails were tolling for the tragic events in Arizona yesterday.
Representative Giffords, Democratic Congresswoman from Arizona has been shot in the head…
Federal Judge John Roll has been killed…
12 are reported injured, 6 are dead including a nine year old girl…

How do I preach on baptism and not address that the grace and love of Jesus Christ as evident in his shed blood is now intermingled with the blood of an innocent 9 year old girl?

How do I preach on baptism and not address that obeying His Word and showing his love are action verbs, especially in the light of an event that is dangerously close to stunning us into silence and inaction?

How do I preach on baptism and not address that we witnessed the power of evil in this world practically firsthand yesterday - and yet, almost ridiculously, vow to renounce it.

Do you trust in the grace and love of Jesus Christ… do you promise to show Christ’s love… will you turn from the ways of sin and renounce the power of evil in this world?
Yes, you?

Today is not just about the call to ministry of our friends and colleagues. Today is about the call of God on all of our lives. We are all called to live out our faith whether it be as a deacon or as an elder or as a parent or spouse or coworker or caretaker or neighbor or community member.

We are all called to remember our baptism – to trust in the grace and love of Jesus Christ.
Do you?
We are all called to remember our baptism – to be Christ’s faithful disciple, showing his love.
Will you?
We are all called to remember our baptism – to turn from the ways of sin and renounce evil and its power in the world.
Do you?

We are called to reflect God’s light in the midst of unfathomable darkness.
We are called to breathe in God’s Word and breathe out God’s Truth.
We are called to be a beacon for the Good News in the midst of all the bad.

And we are Called to do it with the grace and the love that God has provided.

Madeline L’engle famously wrote:
“We do not draw people to Christ
by loudly discrediting what they believe,
by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are,
but by showing them a light that is so lovely
that they want with all their hearts
to know the source of it .”

Remember your baptism.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age…

Yes. You.

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Songbird said...


Brittany said...

You caught me with Sixteen Candles (my all-time favorite Molly Ringwald movie), then again with calling and by the end...well, I'm gonna have to come back to this sermon over and over again. Thank you for your words.