|Easter Sunday, Year A||April 16, 2017||Easter Sunday, Year A||Matthew 28:1-10|
|Good Friday, Year A||April 14, 2017||Good Friday, Year A||John 18:11, 9:28-30|
|Maundy Thursday, Year A||April 13, 2017||Maundy Thursday, Year A||John 13:1-7, 31b-35|
|Palm Sunday, Year A||April 9, 2017||Palm Sunday, Year A||Matthew 26:36-46|
|➤Lent 5||April 2, 2017||Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year A, Baptism||John 11:1-45|
|Lent 4||March 26, 2017||Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year A||Ephesians 5:8-14, John 9:1-41|
|Lent 3||March 19, 2017||Third Sunday in Lent, Year A||Psalm 95, Romans 5:1-11, John 4:5-42|
|Lent 2||March 12, 2017||Second Sunday in Lent, Year A||Genesis 12:1-4a, Psalm 121, John 3:1-17|
|Lent 1||March 5, 2017||First Sunday in Lent, Year A||Matthew 4:1-11|
|Ash Wednesday||March 1, 2017||Ash Wednesday, Year A||Matthew 4:1-11|
|Last Sunday after the Epiphany||February 26, 2017||Last Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 17:1-9|
|Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany||February 19, 2017||Seventh Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||Leviticus 19:1-2, I Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23; Matthew 5:38-48|
|Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany||February 12, 2017||Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Deuteronomy 30:15-20; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37|
|Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany||February 5, 2017||Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||Isaiah 58:1-12; Matthew 5:13-20|
|Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany – Reflections on Annual Convention, Susan Tilt||January 29, 2017||4th Sunday after the Epiphany||Matthew 5:1-12|
Sermon Date:April 2, 2017
Scripture: John 11:1-45
Liturgy Calendar: Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year A, Baptism
Today we’ve gathered to celebrate two baptisms.
In just a few minutes, Dorian and Katie will become the two newest members of our church as we welcome them into the fellowship of Christians here at St Peter’s and all around the world.
After I baptize these two in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, I’ll make the mark of the cross on their foreheads and say these words.
“Dorian, you are sealed by the Holy Spirit, and marked as Christ’s own forever.”
“Katie, you are sealed by the Holy Spirit, and marked as Christ’s own forever.”
Think of this sign of the cross on a newly baptized person’s forehead as a doorway into a whole new way of being alive in God’s world, a world which we realize is full of the undeserved and abundant gifts that God has piled around us.
When this doorway opens, we can feel the Holy and life giving Spirit blowing into our lives, sometimes gently like a summer breeze, sometimes as a forceful as a stormy wind.
When this doorway opens, our eyes open and we recognize the people who wrap us in love as gifts from God who are there to help us to live good and true lives, especially the people in our church.
But best of all, when this doorway opens through baptism, we welcome God’s love pouring into our lives like a rushing torrent of water that sweeps us off our feet, washing us in love, and filling our hearts with the living water of God’s love—so much love that we can’t keep it in its banks—that love can’t help but fill and overflow the confines of our hearts, and we find ourselves loving others, even the most unlikely others, with God’s love, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
And–We get to be the witnesses of God’s love as God’s love pours through our lives out into the world!
When this doorway opens, we can see God’s glory in God’s work in the world around us, and we get to experience God’s peace and joy, even “among the swift and varied changes of this world,” as today’s opening prayer puts it.
Our privilege, as the people in this church, is to encourage Dorian and Katie to keep this doorway open, so that they will know that God’s love, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is always be washing through them!
And after they receive this cross on their foreheads, the mark of baptism, we will pray for these two that through this open doorway God will always be giving them these gifts that baptism makes tangible– inquiring and discerning hearts, the courage to will and to persevere, the spirit to know and love God, and the gift of joy and wonder in all of God’s works.
Today’s gospel lesson that we just heard also has a doorway in it—a stone doorway.
When Lazarus died, he was buried in a tomb carved in a rocky hillside. And once the mourners had placed his body in this tomb, they rolled a large stone across the entrance. This stone door sealed the tomb.
Death was inside the tomb.
Life was outside the tomb.
And the stone kept death and life separate.
Jesus said, “Take away the stone! Open this door!”
Martha objected. Even though she had just heard Jesus say that he was the resurrection and the life and Martha had said that she believed this, she still understood what that meant with a very human understanding. Death cannot be undone. It’s final.
The people take away the stone and open the doorway to the tomb.
Jesus calls out to Lazarus.
Lazarus, even in death, hears Jesus, and comes out of the tomb, his hands and feet still bound with the grave wrappings. In the midst of death, new life springs up!
Jesus says, “Unbind him and let him go.”
Death happens all around us all the time. Little deaths happen to every one of us throughout our lives—the death of dreams and hopes, the death of friendships, marriages and other relationships, the death of those we love and the loss of their physical presence with us, the death of jobs and careers, and the death of our physical abilities to do things as easily as we did when we were younger, the death of our self-esteem—this list of deathly things in our lives is inexhaustible.
All of these losses cause grief. Sometimes we bury grief deep, roll a stone over it, and just try to forget it. Sometimes we go into a tomb of grief and pull the door shut behind us, forgetting that out of the ashes and dust of death, new life is waiting to erupt.
Thanks be to God that Jesus is with us, always reminding us, sometimes firmly and sometimes gently, about these shut doors in our lives—“Take away the stone. Open the door.” “Let life have the last word!”
Baptism—and getting sealed with the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever—gives us a perpetual reminder to keep this doorway to God open, because even in the midst of death, we can see that God has already brought new life to us, if we will only keep the doorway open and look at what lifegiving and joyful things God has done, is continuing to do, and will do in our lives and in the world around us.
In many churches, including this one, Lent begins with the Ash Wednesday observance, and on that day each year those who desire it can receive a mark made of ashes on their foreheads, in the same place where Dorian and Katie will receive the seal of the Holy Spirit today.
That cross made of ashes is a reminder. It reminds us that we are made of dust, the very dirt of the ground, and it is to dust and dirt that we shall return.
But that cross of ashes is also a doorway that opens into eternal life. This Ash Wednesday cross doorway reminds us that new life is always springing up from the earth, and that in the words of the burial service, that “all of us go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.”
Because through our baptisms into Christ’s death and resurrection we have died to sin and grief and risen to newness of life over and over as we’ve traveled through life, so when we pass through the doorway of the grave and gate of death we go with Jesus into our joyful resurrections.
People of St Peter’s, I challenge you today to open your own doors—to hear the voice of Jesus calling you to come out and leave behind whatever is death dealing in your lives. Hear the voice of Jesus calling you to come out and play, to enjoy the gifts that God has laid out before all of us—to open the door of your hearts to the power of the Holy Spirit and to God’s love and to share that love with others.
And I also challenge you to be on hand to help Dorian and Katie keep this baptism doorway open in their lives as they grow up in this place, to help them both grow into the fullness of God’s love for each one of them so they can go share that love with the world.
Remember, being sealed with the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever through baptism makes possible a longing and a hope for and a striving for and a glimpse of and the actual experiencing of pieces of that joyful resurrection life right now, with the hope for its glorious completion in our lives to come.