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Whom Are You Looking For: The Lord Is Risen!

Whom Are You Looking For: The Lord is Risen!

REV. CHRISTIAN BARON -March 27, 2016- EASTER SUNDAY, John 20:1-18

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit… Amen

 

Good morning. Happy Easter! Goodness… Lent seemed extra long this year didn’t it? Extra cold… extra dark… Am I wrong? I’m so happy for the warmth and the sunshine and the Resurrection. Glad you are here with me. If you are visiting, we’re glad you are here with us.

 

The past few days have been a whirlwind. Maunday Thursday… Good Friday… Holy Saturday… the Easter Vigil last night.  It has been a special and wonderful week.

 

I have been struck this week by the text and the usage of the word “whom.”  The good Friday passage Jesus asks the authorities twice “whom are you looking for?”  Turns out they were looking for Jesus. They were looking for him so that they could try him and kill him.  So that they could bring Jesus to a rigged trial. The trial of a man, Jesus, who was in fact guilty of insurrection.  That’s right… Jesus wasn’t an innocent victim. He wasn’t innocent of his charges… He shouldn’t be pitied because he was, in fact, guilty of creating an uprising against the powers of darkness.

 

It is quite a story… an amazing narrative… a story of power and authority… of struggle and oppression…. And until last night… we lost… those who are friendly with Jesus Christ… those who consider Jesus their Lord and King… we lost… Until last night…and this morning…  the Romans and those who participated in a system of injustice, in fact won… they killed the biggest threat to that power and to that system…

 

But this morning… last night… Christ overcame their efforts…  Overcame death… Showed us a new kingdom… Overcame a system of sin… Taught us a new way to see power and weakness… He responded to their hatred with love… a love that could overcome death.

 

And then in the gospel for today Jesus asks Mary, “Whom are you looking for?”  And she still doesn’t recognize her good friend Jesus…

 

And in this story… the story of resurrection… people are changed by God’s action… changed by the work of God who overcame death….

 

Jesus and the disciple that Jesus loved… John… return home after finding the tomb empty. They find an empty tomb with the burial rags wrapped up… folded nicely… burial rags that are no longer needed because the dead man is risen… Whom are you looking for, Peter?  Whom are you looking for, John?  And Peter and John return home to their lives… forever changed…

 

And Mary… the woman that loved Jesus in a way that no other human could… finally saw… finally realized that Jesus was in fact alive… In fact, Jesus had been dead but, had now been raised from the dead… And Mary, who had anointed Jesus before the last supper and who had arrived at the tomb to anoint him after his death… was the first to see him… It was a special experience for her to be able to experience the resurrected Jesus…  Changed forever… Whom are you looking for, Mary? Whom are you looking for?

 

And Jesus himself was changed… Things were so real… so intense… that Jesus couldn’t be touched… Things were too new… too bright… too real… his physical body couldn’t be touched by a human being…

 

This morning we have two baptisms.  Erica and Penelope… I think it is pretty fantastic that we have an adult baptism and a baptism of a baby.  Two human beings who will experience an ontological change.  A change that will affect the trajectory of the rest of both of their lives.  And we pray that they will both continue the path to be like Jesus…. Whom are you looking for, Erica and Penelope?  Whom are you looking for?

 

If we had a full immersion baptism font, I think the imagery would be a bit more clear. The baptism candidate would be placed under the water to signify death… death to the individual desire and then raised into a new life with Christ… Death to the old Kingdom and raised up into a life in the new one… into a life in Christ the King who constantly sacrificed himself for the good of all and not himself…

 

And you also… Grace Episcopal Church… You are called to renew your baptismal covenant.  You too are called to be changed by the resurrection…

 

and you visitor… you too are called to this. You are called to treat all of humanity… and all of creation with dignity and respect…  and to be a good human…

 

Because… for you and I… for Peter and John and Mary… for Erica and Penelope… because of the resurrection of Jesus, we can experience resurrection in our own lives… we must experience it. And, we are called to proclaim resurrection in the lives of those around us and to assist God in that work.  We are called to help all of humanity get into position… to get into the tomb, like Jesus… so that they can experience it for themselves. So that all of creation can proclaim the Resurrection… So all of creation can experience new life.

 

And so today we feast… we will go home and eat our ham or what-not and remember that because God has chosen to become a human and because he has raised Jesus from the dead, that we are not to fast… that we are instead to feast… We fasted for 40 days… and now we shall feast for 50… May it be a 50 day feast to remember!

 

Praise be to God…

 

Amen.

REMEMBER YOUR BAPTISM?

REMEMBER YOUR BAPTISM?

REV. JODI BARON – January 10, 2016 – 1 EPIPHANY, YEAR C: LUKE 3:15-17,21-22

“ Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’”

 

In the Name of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Good morning.

 

I’m sure you’re wondering right now, “there must be an misprint. Jen was supposed to be preaching this morning.”

 

Well, it’s not a misprint. You have me in her proxy this morning because, unfortunately, she sustained a back injury late last week and has been recovering at home. She wanted me to assure you she is on the healing path and will return to the office soon, just not yet today.

 

But do not fear! Isn’t that what the prophet Isaiah told us this morning?

 

God was speaking to his people through Isaiah in those days of a time when profound healing would take place. That promise of the eschaton, right?

 

Thus says the Lord,

he who created you, O Jacob,

he who formed you, O Israel:

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by name, you are mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,

and the flame shall not consume you.

For I am the Lord your God,

the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

 

Baptism, as we practice it in most Episcopal Churches, is somewhat of a more “practical” expression than visceral, like the waters of the Jordan likely were for Christ, when his cousin, John, baptized him.

 

Show of hands, how many of you, at your baptism, were submerged into the waters and then brought back up by the minister?

 

How many of you had a shell of water poured over your head, or sprinkles dotted on you?

 

How many of you remember your baptism?

 

Memory is a tricky thing, you see.

 

For some of us, we can say that we remember our baptisms because we were older when we made that commitment to the church, when we publically accepted our belovedness.

 

For others, that memory is deeper, it is extended to us through our loved ones who witnessed it and made promises on our behalf.

 

For us, neither one is more special or right. Because the act of baptism is a gift, no matter when it is administered. Whether you were two weeks old or 92 years old, Baptism is as much about the one being baptized as it is about the body of Christ which makes promises too. It is the primary way, our Church teaches, one enters into the mystical body of Christ. It’s, for thousands of years, the Rite by which we become woven into the DNA of Christ and thus his body, the Church.

 

And in the 1979 prayer book, the one we get our liturgies from today, the theology of our church makes a shift, of sorts, in how we see this sacrament.

 

It took the sacrament of baptism out of the privacy of the family unit and extended it to a public declaration and incorporation, thus restoring the more ancient understanding, I think, of what we are doing when we Die, Rise, and make promises to Live for Christ through baptism.

 

It is found directly following the Great Vigil of Easter and right before Eucharist. Order, you see, is important when it comes to the composition of our Book of Common Prayer. It, as Leonel Mitchell says,

shapes our believing.

 

You’ve heard the phrase, “Baptismal Covenant,” right?

 

In theological terms, or in God-talk, a covenant is something that brings about relationship of commitment between God and his people.

It isn’t just about the one making the covenant.

At each baptism the whole body remembers their baptism by reciting the Baptismal Covenant.

 

Those promises that God makes with us and we with him… “with God’s help,” we say.

 

In this morning’s Gospel, from Luke, we read,

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’

 

Jesus, himself was baptized and declared from heaven as God’s beloved, so by extension, we can be called sons and daughters of The Most High, as well.

 

Sons and Daughters of God.

 

Worthy of dignity and respect, without clauses to remind us of who qualifies, but by mere act of creation, we are God’s beloved.

 

One of my favorite authors, and new Episcopalians, Rachel Held Evans, says in her book “Searching for Sunday,”

 

“Jesus did not begin to be loved at the moment of his baptism, nor did he cease to be loved when his baptism became a memory. Baptism simply named the reality of his existing and unending belovedness.”

 

And Saint Basil (the brother of the getting-better-known-saint Naucratius and better known brother Gregory) said,

As we were baptized, so we profess our belief. As we profess our belief, so also we offer praise. As then baptism has been given us by the Savior, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, so, in accordance with our baptism, we make the confession of the creed, and our doxology in accordance with our creed.”

So, brothers and sisters. On this day, the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord, I call on you to also remember your baptism as we live into this season of Epiphany and stand with me to renew our Baptismal Covenant.

 

The Baptismal Covenant

 

Celebrant Do you believe in God the Father?
People I believe in God, the Father almighty,

creator of heaven and earth.

Celebrant Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
People I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,

He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit

and born of the Virgin Mary.

He suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended to the dead.

On the third day he rose again.

He ascended into heaven,

and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Celebrant Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?
People I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic Church,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and the life everlasting.

Celebrant Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and

fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the

prayers?

People I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant Will you persevere in resisting evil, and , whenever

you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?

People I will, with God’s help.

 

Celebrant Will you proclaim by word and example the Good

News of God in Christ?

People I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving

your neighbor as yourself?

People I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant Will you strive for justice and peace among all

people, and respect the dignity of every human

being?

People I will, with God’s help.
Our Millstone

Sermon by The Reverend Christian Baron  Pentecost 18. Proper 21 Year B. Mark 9:38-50

large-millstone

Mark 9:38-50

John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell., And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

“For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

 

 

“for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.”

 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…

 

Good morning.  Summer is over. I’m sorry, but it truly is. Did anybody out there have a great summer? Time spent at a cottage or on the beach? Maybe camping at one of the state parks… Perhaps you went to church camp, or boy scout camp, or to the boundary waters. Did anybody get a leach on them this summer? How about a tick? How about a mosquito bite?

Sorry for all of the audience participation, but our friends from Oklahoma came to visit this weekend. Alexis and Bella are here from Tulsa. Alexis is married to an Episcopal Priest and we were neighbors in Texas in seminary. Well, she told me yesterday that whenever an episcopal priest gets up to speak, something gets shut-off. She just stops listening. And although I was completely offended, I decided to accept the challenge.

 

I’ll bet that whatever you did this summer, you were near the water. Maybe you have been able to squeeze out a bit more of summer from this fall. It has been nice weather. I sure have stretched the summer this week. In fact yesterday i went fishing on Lake Michigan with one of our very own Grace folks. It was so wonderful to watch the sun rise over the dunes. To feel the wind cross the water and to watch as waves picked up and tossed us around… back and forth. To chat about the Great Lakes fishery and the water quality. Remembering the alewife beach problems of my childhood. Anybody remember those smells? Whew! I remember as a boy clearing a path among the alewife from our beach spot to the water moving those little fish out of the way to get to the cool lake. Like many smells, they help me to remember those scenes well.

 

Is there anybody that was here last Sunday for church? The Bishop was here. It was a wonderful day. We were able to host him and then continue to participate in the future of our local parish in a strategic doing session. One of the things that Bishop Hougland said in his sermon has stuck with me all week. In fact,I think it will always stick with me, forever. He mentioned the fact that our Diocese and our State has miles and miles of beachfront and miles and miles of waterfront. It was very powerful to hear him connect the significance of the largest sources of freshwater, In the world… with our baptism and the use and significance of water in the scriptures.

 

It changed how I fished this week. Yesterday I took our guests to the beach. Their first time to Lake Michigan. It changed how I saw the beach and the water and my thoughts as I watched the kids swim and play in the waves. As they immersed themselves and explored the shallow water and how they wanted to get out deeper.  Deeper into the water over their heads. Into the water that was definitely… not… safe…

 

In the gospel today, I read something kind of scary. There is talk about hell and unquenchable fire. The text uses a violent example of cutting off your own hand or foot or gouging out your own eye if they cause you to stumble. I read a story about water. I read a story about water and baptism and how to care for one another.

 

The passage starts with the disciples talking about a group of people doing the same work that they are called to. The same work that Jesus is doing. The kind of work that brings freedom to all. They say to Jesus in their whiniest voices, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” This is so great. The author is intentionally poking fun at the disciples here because in the previous chapter he mentions that the disciples were not able to perform this exact task. I won’t spend any time talking about this little nugget, but you can see the irony of them rebuking these prophets that are not following the disciples.

 

And so Jesus gently helps them to see the importance of a universal moralism. He says, “Look guys, Goodness belongs to God. Healing and freedom belong to the Kingdom. Competition is not one of the fruits of the spirit. Those who dwell in the Kingdom are filled with ‘charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity’.”  

 

He goes on to make his point with an example… He connects the prophets who are performing miracles and setting people free, with offering a cold drink of water to those who are thirsty.

 

This is the baptism connection: Through our baptismal covenant, we are called to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourself, and striving for justice and peace among all people, and respecting the dignity of every human being. For our purposes today, this translates as “Give a drink to those who are thirsty.” So simple, and at the same time, the most difficult thing for any of us.

 

The bad news is that Jesus then gives an example of a different kind of baptism. He starts by talking about a baptism of immersion… the kind of immersion via millstone. The kind of baptism that leads to suffering: our own and the suffering of those around us. He goes on to talk about a baptism of fire. A baptism of immersion of Hell on earth. A baptism of unquenchable fire.  Powerful and extreme and provocative language. Offensive language that is meant to shock and repel.

 

The bishop’s mention of Lake Michigan and baptism and our local context will stick with me. But there is another recent image that will stick with me a as I think about baptism and sin and drowning. I think about the Syrian refugee… the three year old Aylan that drowned in the Mediterranean, seeking asylum from violence and war. A violence and war that he knew nothing about. A casualty of war because of the sins of the powerful around him. A refusal and an unwillingness of the world to treat each other with dignity and respect… an unwillingness to live inside the Kingdom of God.

 

I will not be able to forget that red shirt… the blue pants… the tiny shoes… And I wonder about millstones.  I wonder who may need to wear one. I wonder how large mine is and if there is something I can do for penance. Something that can help usher in the Kingdom and keep me from any culpability.

 

Where can I find a glass of water to offer those who are thirsty? Where can I be the hands and feet of Jesus and bless all of those I encounter…

 

I’ll wrap up my sermon by telling you another quick story… I was on a boat this week. Maybe a boat like the boat Aylan was on. I usually fish with people I don’t know very well. I meet folks on an online  fishing bulletin board that I have begged to ride along on their boats and fish for salmon and trout. The conversation at some point gets to vocation and work and I proudly tell them that I work for the Episcopal Church. This always leads to more conversations. Sometimes these folks see our time together as an opportunity to ask a priest all of the questions they have about God or to tell stories of harm that the Church has done. This week, one of the fishermen asked me this question, “So, Christian, what do you think about the Pope?”  I was glad for the question because I happen to really like the pope. I REALLY like this pope. So I was able to share a couple of examples of how Francis has refused much of the power and esteem that goes with the position, and instead spends a large amount of time with those who have no power or agency. People that are ugly, and messy and broken.  People who are down and out and homeless and helpless.  

 

And then, the other fisherman says, “I haven’t been to church in over 20 years. But I like this guy. I heard he refused to live in the Pope Palace and instead lives in the servant’s apartment. I heard that in Washington, he ate with homeless people instead of eating with Senators and political big-wigs. He seems different from most of the church people that I’ve met. He seems like a guy I can follow”  

 

Ughh!  This was both a millstone for me as well as a glass of water.  While I don’t need to take on all the responsibility for the hurt and pain of this fisherman’s religious past, there is still some personal pain when somebody feels damaged and hurt by the Church.  The Church of which I belong. The one Church of Jesus Christ. And, I feel like he offered me a glass of cold water and an outside perspective of the Church. He gave me a little nugget of the work that we have to do.

 

While I don’t really believe that Jesus has made a millstone for you or for me, it is helpful for me to think about the water that I offer to those who are thirsty as a way to chip away at that granite stone.

 

I’ll finish with this quote from Pope Francis that makes me glad to be a part of a parish that gets dirty…

 

“I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.” Pope Francis

 

May we continue to seek to put the needs of “the other” over our own and to seek areas in in the life of our Church our personal lives that we still need to chip away at our millstones.

Amen!