Baptized (Acts 2:37-42)Joan MacPherson, June 18, 2017
Part of the Sunday series, preached at a Sunday Morning service
Psalm 46; Acts 2:37-42
I am uncertain about where and how this is going to go this morning. In my reflecting and preparing this week I have been intermixing sermon/preachy ideas for Sunday worship - with memory ideas for my dad’s funeral. Somehow the Sunday morning part is more is more easily getting loaded with memories when I need a sermon - and the funeral part is getting more preachy when I am about sharing stories/memories. For those that are here regularly I am grateful for your support and accepting that this time will just be what it is today. For those worshipping with us for the first time - come back again - I trust that I will remember and return to proper preaching. For those that traveled to be here just for Lark’s baptism and likely won’t be back? Well likely many of you have heard a sermon or 2 from her grand father, remember those. For whatever else doesn’t really work today or for an offenses felt in my words I plead the grieving daughter whose church knew she should take time off but who is just stubborn enough to say no - I can do this, I want to do this - except that when it came time to prepare to do this well..
Here we are with an unsettled beginning. Which is exactly where the people were in the part of our sacred story we heard from Acts. They have been all over the place with the recent experience of Jesus being executed and then his tomb found empty and people having experiences of the Risen Christ present, active, speaking, teaching them. What were they to do now? There had been this powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit 50 days after Jesus’ death (so glad I can get that in - I was at Jack Lamson’s wedding on Pentecost and missed out on preaching about it) All sorts of people, who spoke different languages, heard the voice/story/instruction/welcome of God in a way that they could understand. It was life giving and exciting. There was a future for all of them that God was initiating and providing. Hope is high. But there is also this reality that the powers and principalities (with the support of members of the general public) had crucified Jesus. They had had love in their midst but they hadn’t accepted and celebrated it. It was unsettled. It was confusing. Peter has told them they they had messed up. They were hurting. Cut to the heart it says in our sacred story. Bottom falling out. Unsettled. Uncertain. Peter! Peter! What do we do? This is a horrible place to be. We don’t feel good. We don’t know what to do.
Peter’s answer. Repent and be baptized. Repent means turn around. It is not a word of judgment or a declaration of unworthiness. It is an invitation to re-orient. Turn around. Stop focusing on all that unsettledness. Stop reviewing what you said or didn’t say before. But wait, there is more, it isn’t the wagging finger stop - should- must - judge - it is a live giving invitation. Peter says repent AND BE BAPTIZED. You will receive the gift of the holy spirit - for the promise is for you, for your children and for all who are far away. Peter says when its crazy and uncertain, don’t plough ahead into the mess and frenzy, turn around and open to the grace, welcome, hope, love, future, transformation, acceptance of God. Ok, he used less words in the sacred story but this is the my translation and I am a woman of more words. Be baptized is the offer to those who hadn’t been. Remember your baptism to those who have been baptized already.
Baptism. It is not a protective shield that prevents pain or challenge - pain and challenge will come baptism or no baptism, they are part of life. It is not something that makes you ok in God’s sight - you are born ok in God’s sight. You are born more than ok in God’s sight, you are loved, claimed, treasured and needed by God, period, baptism or no baptism. It is not something for those who have achieved a certain spiritual competence, academic achievement, social status or economic success but a gift poured out by God for all, no matter who they are or where they are on life’s journey. Baptism is a sacrament that proclaims God’s love and welcome of all. Administering the sacrament in the church we proclaim God’s love and welcome of all and our belief that this matters. We orient our lives around the truth that the holy mystery and power we call God loves without condition and is present in the day to day realities of our being. This is not an abstract idea. It is real. It is as literal and mystical as water placed in the shape of a cross. It is so much more then getting a baby done. It is the accepting, bumping up against, opening to, being supported, disrupted, transformed by the source of life who claims us and call us to be the church. Though we may use a few drops of water to baptize at Main Street Church there is nothing small about baptism. Nothing small about people who enter into the realities of life claiming and trusting that truth that the presence and power of God’s love matters and it is given us, our children and all who are far away. Amen
Main Street Congregational UCC
June 18, 2017
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37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (ESV)