Baptism – God Has Promised Us an Inheritance

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Sermon on Joy, Epiphany, 2012 January 6, 2012 Epiphany Matthew 2:1-12


Baptism – God Has Promised Us an Inheritance

Sermon Date:August 8, 2010

Scripture: Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16; Luke 12: 32-40 ;Revelation 22:1-5

Liturgy Calendar: Proper 14, Year C, RCL

“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going.” 

Ever since human beings have walked on this planet earth, God has been calling us, each and every one of us, like Abraham, to set out for the place that we are to receive as an inheritance.  

And that inheritance, that promise, is the one with which Jesus reassured his disciples on their way to Jerusalem.

 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” 

But as one of my doubting friends keeps reminding me—

“God’s kingdom hasn’t come on earth!  Jesus died and nothing changed. “

“What kingdom was he talking about?” 

After all, along with the whole human race, like those who lived and died before us, and like those who live now, we’re still waiting.

We’re still waiting for the kingdom that Jesus brought near in his lifetime. 

Jesus walked all over Galilee proclaiming this kingdom. 

He walked through the fields, and along the Sea of Galilee, calling out– 

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near!” 

And he sent evil spirits out of people, and he healed them, and he fed the people.  He loved the people.  

These actions of casting out evil spirits, healing one another, feeding one another, and loving one another are the actions of people who long for God’s kingdom here on earth. 

And this inheritance that God promises us  is not only defined by action, but we also have a great vision of what that kingdom will look like, the vision that  we have in the great book of Revelation.

A new heaven and a new earth have come to pass. 

“And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down on this earth out of heaven from God!” the writer of Revelation reports. 

Now there is no temple in this city,

because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb, the one who died for us, dwell  there,

and from the throne of  God and of the lamb flows the river of the water of life,

bright as crystal, flowing from the throne through the middle of the city

And on either side of this gushing river of pure water is the tree of life, with its leaves for the healing of the nations. 

But in reality, we still wait.

And like those faithful people that we heard about in Hebrews today, the chances are great that we believers will also die in faith without God’s kingdom being fully realized on earth. 

But because we are believers,   we long for God’s kingdom anyway, even in the face of death,

And we try our best to live as if God’s kingdom really HAS come on earth, because

we believe that God has promised us an inheritance.

And we want those we love to have this longing too. 

A friend of mine grew up as an atheist. 

His parents had given up the faith of their childhoods and taught him that God did not exist.

They convinced their child, and my friend loved to argue with anyone and everyone about God.  For him, God did not exist. 

To him, faith was a fairytale. 

But this young man had two grandmothers who were Christians, who had heard God calling to  them all their lives.

And they were travelling toward God, toward their inheritance.

And both of them wanted their grandson to be on that journey with them. 

So unbeknownst to my friend, because he was too little to remember,

and unbeknownst to each other, but they both knew  that the parents of my friend never would have their son baptized, 

each grandmother secretly  baptized her grandson.

One of them baptized him in her kitchen sink one afternoon when she was giving this little baby a bath.

The sunlight poured in through the window and shone on his wet little body. 

The other baptized him in the bathtub as he was splashing and playing in the water. 

And then those grandmothers waited.  They waited in faith. 

During college, my friend started hearing God call. 

God was calling him to the place that he was to receive as an inheritance.

And my friend argued and argued against God, and shut his ears, but God longed for my friend so deeply ,  as God longs for each and every one of us,

that finally, my friend  could no longer resist. 

He listened to God’s voice, and became a Christian. 

That’s when his grandmothers confessed, and he found out that he had been baptized secretly as an infant, not once, but twice! 

His grandmothers, in their own longing for him, had set him out on his journey toward God.

This past year, he graduated from seminary, and he will soon be ordained as a priest. 

But let’s face it.

This is a wonderful story,

But when we look around, we see that God’s kingdom has not come on earth,

And when we listen for God’s voice, it seems to come in the faintest of whispers, and sometimes we can’t hear it at all.

So we live as best we can in the present while we long for the future. 

And every day, we set out anyway, believing that our lives have a destination. 

not just a casket when we die, but the kingdom of God itself.  

Baptism marks the beginning of our intentional journey toward God.

Today we will baptize our newest member, Chester Nelson Duke, into this great community of Christians who have sought God and set out on this journey throughout the centuries. 

The water that we will pour into our baptismal font today has in it water from Israel. 

This water springs out of a great mountain in the northern reaches of Israel, springs out in a mighty stream, bright as crystal,  flows down the mountain, and shapes itself into rivers, one of which is the Jordan River, the river in which Jesus himself was baptized.

Normally, this water would have flowed through the Sea of Galilee,  and continued its journey down the Jordan River,

but I was lucky enough to stretch out on my stomach on the earth beside this living water, and reach into that water, and to fill a water bottle, so that I could bring some of this living water back to us, so that it could mingle with our own water. 

And now these drops of water, after this baptism, will end up in the Rappahannock River, the great river that flows right past our church, and this water will journey into the Chesapeake Bay, and then out into the Atlantic Ocean. 

At some point, it will evaporate, and then fall again as rain somewhere else, who knows where, back to earth.   

Water, too, is constantly on a journey. 

When we baptize Chester Nelson, he too, will  set out in faith on a great journey, a  mysterious journey, that will take him who knows where during his life. 

Today, even though Chester is still a baby in his parents’ arms,

today he will take his first step,

his first step in faith, in obedience, his first step toward the place that he is to receive as an inheritance. 

We do not know where life will take Chester, and we don’t even know where life will take each of us, but now we know this. 

Chester will soon be on this journey with all of us. 

And all of us are journeying with that great multitude who have died in faith before God’s kingdom came on earth, but who could still imagine that kingdom. 

They, too, travel with us, and they too, long for us, and call out to us. 

So in faith, along with the communion of saints, we continue to seek God’s kingdom, that vision of a heavenly city with its great rushing river of heavenly healing water,

the water of life, that flows from the throne of God and through the Lamb,

we seek God’s final kingdom of love and healing.

We hear God’s call, and so we journey as if we have already arrived,

walking in love with one another,

imagining the day when we will splash and play together in that river of the water of life, 

the day when we will rest beneath the tree of life,  looking up into the sunlight that shines down on us through the leaves for healing of the nations,

for  the healing of the whole world. 



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