Sermon Pentecost 14 – Sept 18 2011

September 18, 2011 at 6:55 am Leave a comment

Today we will bring two babies to the font in the front of this church,
to the waters of Holy Baptism.
In the Small Catechism, when asked the question,
“What then is the significance of such a baptism with water?”
Martin Luther answers,
“It signifies that the old person in us with all sins and evil desires
is to be drowned through daily sorrow for sin and repentance,
and that daily a new person is to come forth and rise up
to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”
Baptism is not therefore simply a one-time rite,
to be applied and then forgotten,
but the actual shape of our life,
to be plunged under the flood so that our old life might be drowned,
and to rise up joyfully to live the new life God has promised.

Okay, so what does that explanation mean?
Maybe I can try and simplify it still further,
and say, that the life of Baptism is about a life-long learning
to see things from God’s perspective.
Jonah and the workers that were hired early only see things from their perspective.
Jonah is embarrassed that his prediction of doom didn’t come true.
The workers feel that they have been cheated, because they worked all day
and got exactly the same pay as those who only worked for an hour.

But Jonah and the workers receive a lesson about God’s perspective.
Jonah learns that the important thing about the prophecy of doom
was not that it would come true,
but that it was meant to change the minds and hearts of the people of Nineveh.
From God’s perspective,
Nineveh needed not dooming, but saving;
and if a prophecy of doom was needed in order to save the people of Nineveh,
he would send Jonah to give the prophecy of doom,
and he wouldn’t worry too much about Jonah’s hurt feelings
when Nineveh turned away from sin –
when they learned to see things from God’s perspective –
and Nineveh didn’t need dooming after all.
Is that even a word?
Dooming?
If not, it should be.

But God also expected that Jonah would be glad
when Nineveh was spared,
because God thought that Jonah could see things from God’s perspective.
After all, hadn’t God saved Jonah when Jonah had run away?
Jonah had heard the message to go to Nineveh,
and he immediately booked a flight in the exact opposite direction.
Well, it wasn’t a flight, it was a ship, but you get the point.
And God had saved Jonah – the whale was a vessel of salvation,
and sent him to Nineveh to proclaim doom,
and, well, you know the rest of the story.
The people of Nineveh turned away from sin and toward God.
In a way, they were baptized.
They started to learn to see things from God’s perspective.
Jonah still had to learn.
Baptism is a life-long learning to see things from God’s perspective.

The workers in Jesus’ parable
who were hired early
naturally expected that they would be paid more
than the ones that were hired late.
This story is not about fair labor practices.
Why does Jesus tell this story?
Perhaps because there were late-comers among the disciples,
ones who Jesus picked up along the way to Jerusalem,
and there was an assumption that they would receive less of a heavenly reward
when the kingdom finally came.
Or maybe it is about the Pharisees who were upset
that Jesus was bringing people who didn’t follow their rules into his group
and telling them that they would inherit the kingdom.
Or maybe this story is remembered because in Matthew’s community
there were latecomers, ones who came to the message of salvation late,
and there were some who grumbled that these were getting a free ride.
Who knows?
The important thing is that we too need to keep learning
to see things from God’s perspective.
The promise of the kingdom for a little baby
is just as true as it is for those who have worked for seventy and more years in the church.
We always need to remember
that God’s generosity always trumps what we would see as ‘fair.’
Fairness assumes that there is a limited amount of love and mercy and justice
to go around, and so everyone has to earn ‘their fair share.’
If we assume generosity, we assume an unlimited amount,
so that everyone can have what they need.

Again, it’s ironic that it takes a natural disaster
to see just how much abundance of things and energy and love
God gives us.
For anyone who visited Our Lady of Lourdes in Montoursville during this week,
weren’t you amazed by the amount of material that was donated,
not by the government, not just by businesses, but by ordinary people?
Because we weren’t operating by fairness anymore, but by generosity.
Our Lady of Lourdes can’t keep that center open forever.
We’re thankful for what they did.
And soon we’ll go back to the economy of fairness,
and there will be some people left behind.
It’s unfortunate, but hopefully there will be some people three months down the road
who will still remember that there is always enough to go around
and it doesn’t matter when you showed up for help.

The life of Baptism is about life-long learning
to see things from God’s perspective.
That’s why it’s not a one-time event.
Our vision always needs correcting.
We come back again and again to be surprised by God,
to drink a little more deeply of the Word,
to be challenged and comforted and sent out with joy.
We come to him, confident that he is full of generosity,
desiring nothing but to give us exactly what we need,
his own Spirit to dwell within us through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen

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Sermon Rally Day – September 11, 2011 Sermon Pentecost 15 – September 25, 2011

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