The Rev Cynthia KR Banks: Pentecost—Year C; Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:25-35, 37; Romans 8:14-17; John 14:8-17, (25-27)
Three baptisms on Pentecost! Oh, it doesn’t get any better than this! So, Asher, Dillion, and Kerrick, we better figure out what we’re doing here. So, let’s see how our baptismal theology has been progressing. Are we making Asher, Dillion, and Kerrick children of God today? No! Even if the passage from Romans might make us think that’s what we’re doing—after all, it does use the language of adoption—but Paul also says, “All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God,” and it doesn’t get any broader than that. Remember, it was the Spirit of God that moved over the waters of chaos in the beginning and birthed creation. Remember, it was the Spirit of God that breathed life into the dust and birthed humanity. Every child is a child of God because every child contains the breath of God. So, we’re not making Asher, Dillion, and Kerrick children of God today; they are already that—that is their birthright; that is their inheritance.
And to give Paul his due—the contrast in this part of Romans isn’t between adopted children and biological children; it’s between children and slaves. What Paul is saying is, “You are a child of God, and God has not filled you with divine life so that you can respond to life as a slave of fear. You bear the Spirit of God; it lives inside of you. You know how intimate Jesus was with God; that is your inheritance—you and God are that close, but discovering that intimacy is going to cost you.”
Okay, Asher, Dillion, and Kerrick, here’s the fine print, sorry about this, but there is no way to that intimacy without intimate knowledge of the way of suffering. That’s why we mark you with the sign of the cross. Today, we imprint upon your being the paschal mystery, the dance of death and resurrection; today, we weave into you the paradox of suffering and new life, and we proclaim that this is the frame that will help you make meaning of your life.
Today, we weave you into a story, a sacred story that goes all the back to the very beginning, and we proclaim that this story is big enough to hold your story. This is the story where mistakes get redeemed, where losers become vessels of grace, where up is brought low and low is raised up; this is the story of grace beyond measure and of communities that find their way to the promised land together. This is the story of visions and dreams and old people and young people and men and women all claiming their prophetic voice to say, “It doesn’t have to be this way, but maybe our world could look like this.”
Today, we weave you into a community that knows how to bear your burdens and celebrate your joys, and, sometimes, just sit with you in silence when words fail altogether. It is an amazing thing to live and grow in a community that is not afraid of dying—it means you can lean really hard into living. Stay with us, and we will show you how to lose your life, not once, but over and over again, so that you will be able to find the only life that is truly worth living.
The baptismal covenant gives you a starting place. It won’t be your ending place, but it is an awfully good place to begin. The first part sounds like a bunch of belief stuff, but, at its heart, it says that you are woven into a Trinity of Love. Today, you are brought into a dance that is always moving between the God who creates, the God who redeems, and the God who just can’t let this world be and who blows the Divine Spirit through us all the time. You are in the flow—always have been, always will be. You won’t always be aware of it, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are in it, all the time. Your task will be to be conscious of it and to move with it.
Then we have the five promises that stake out the practices that help us live into the abundant life that is our inheritance as children of God. Looking to our mothers and fathers in the faith to gain strength for our journey; participating in the community that can support us, sustain us, and at times, push to go deeper; admitting how hungry we are for the bread of life and partaking of it every chance we can; and giving ourselves the gift of drinking from the spring of life through prayer in the 8,000 different forms that can take.
Not giving our energy to that which blocks the flow of love in this world, and when we do block it, returning to Jesus who can show us how to let go and let that love flow again.
Letting the good news of God in Christ live so fully in us that every word we speak and every action we take becomes a manifestation of that good news.
Seeking, really seeking, and serving Christ in every person we meet (oooooh, that’s hard sometimes!), and seeing that, through Christ, our neighbor is an extension of our very being.
And striving for justice and peace always, respecting the dignity of every human being, every human being; daring to believe that the kingdom of God that the prophets dreamed about and Jesus preached isn’t just some future picture postcard, but it is the ground beneath our feet; it’s the soil we are to work and tend and cultivate.
These promises are the practices that you will cultivate throughout your life. These are the practices that will help you, in the words of Richard Rohr, become that which you already are, a wondrous, beautiful, blessed child of God filled with light and life and power.
So, be forewarned, this is no small thing that we are doing today—this changes your life, forever, and you will spend the rest of your life figuring out what just what this change means. And, by the way, you can’t ever undo what we do today. As the prayer book says, “The bond established in baptism is indissoluble,” and what a grand and glorious thing that is? In a world where nothing lasts, nothing is permanent, in a disposable world that thrives on planned obsolescence; this won’t change.
You are a child of God. You belong to Christ, and he to you. You belong to us, and we to you.
So, dear Asher, Dillion, and Kerrick, welcome to this household of God; when your crucifixions come, be not afraid, grace will be found even there and Easter will come; proclaim with us the audacious truth of resurrection; and share with us in in the healing of the world. Amen.
The Rev. Cynthia K. R. Banks
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Boone, NC
May 19, 2013