Saturday, May 9, 2009

Sermon for 05/10/09 New Life

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the risen Lord Jesus Christ.

Welcome! Come and see! God invites you to His family!

A member of the Ethiopian court is on his way back to his home country. He had visited Jerusalem and the Temple. He had looked and longed for the teaching and fellowship of the people who shared the same belief. But he went away empty.

At that time a lot of people came to visit the temple. Some of them were Jews living outside Judea. Others were so called “faithful people”. People who believed in the Almighty God but had not converted to Judaism. The eunuch was one of the “faithful people”. He had come to the Temple to do what the Law prescribed. He wanted to worship and find people to talk to. But when he came to the Temple, no one talked to him. No one invited him to join their prayer.

Instead he was told he was not welcome in the Temple. The Laws of the Temple forbade eunuchs to join the temple or even enter it. Eunuchs were seen as unclean. And so the doors were closed to him. He went away. Empty. Unfulfilled. Outcast. Hurting. But on his way home he meets Philip and he finds more than he had ever looked for. God invited him into the family of all believers.

Philip baptized him into the community of God. And with that the eunuch became part of God’s family. He had found what he had looked for in Jerusalem: the eunuch had found a home.

With the baptism begins a new life for the eunuch. He is not an outcast anymore. He has found people who care for him. And he has found a place in the community of faith. The eunuch was able to hear the good news of the gospel: you are welcome here. God loves you. You are a part of us. The message of the risen Christ proclaimed freedom to the eunuch. The children of God had welcomed him.

But today, today we as the children of God have become the people of the Temple. We decide whom we welcome and whom not. The poor, the homeless, the sick? We all to often do not want to see them. Those who annoy us, those who disagree with us, those other - Missouri Synod - Lutherans? We most of the time don’t want to have anything to do with them. The immigrants, the foreigners, the gay and lesbians? We might find them suspect and turn away. But God does not turn away. He invites people to come. Even and especially those our society has made into the eunuchs of our time. God invites them and us all. Not because we are so pure, or so lovable; but because God is so loving!

But to what does God invites us to? He invites us to become a member of His family. He calls us through the waters of baptism to become children of God.

But why water? Why something so common as water? Could God not think of something more divine, more special, more impressive to make us part of His family? Water! How unimportant!

But let us look a bit closer. Water might be very common, at least here where we live, but without it we cannot survive. Water is essential. About 60 % of our bodies are made up of water. About 70% of the earth is covered with water. We all need water to survive. Often when we feel tired, it is because we need some water. Often when we cannot concentrate, it is because we need some water. When we have a headache, it can be because we need some water. When we are cranky, it is because we - well, sometimes it is because we are cranky that day - but sometimes it is because we thirst for water. Water is indeed a very important part of our lives.

Just try to imagine life without water. There would be no life. No green leaves, no crop to harvest. There would be nothing to drink. Water is precious. Even though we seem to live in an abundance of water, only 1% of all the water around us is actually drinking water. Water might be common. But it is also of very great value. Water is indeed one of the foundations of life.

God uses this foundation to call us to the ultimate foundation of our lives: God Himself. Through baptism we are welcomed into the community of the children of God. Even though the waters of baptism are for our eyes nothing more than the water we use every day to drink, clean, and bath, they are so much more for our souls. We cannot see it but we know that through God’s promises that water becomes Holy Water. It becomes the Holy Water of life in Christ. It also becomes the water of death.

In this water we drown. Our old self; Our sins, our brokenness and our fears die. The old Adam and the old Eve drown in this Holy Water. Through this water of drowning God forgives us all our sins. All the dirt and sin that cling to us, are washed away.

We die in the waters of baptism. And then the waters become the waters of life. And we are made alive again. Through God’s forgiveness and love we gain new life in Christ.

God makes us alive again. And He sends us out to share this new life with the whole creation. We have been given a new life. But what does this new life mean?

It means that we are, like Philip, called to welcome everybody into our midst. I know this is difficult. Because it might mean that we have to welcome people we do not like. Or do not get along with. Or even worse; who have hurt us. But God calls us to welcome them all. God calls us to forgive even those who hurt us and to welcome them into the new life in Christ.

This does not mean that we welcome people to continue to hurt or even abuse us. But it means that we let go of our anger and allow God to take care of them and us.

It means to let go of our grudges against each other. And it means to allow God to heal us so that we may be able to live a reconciled life.

The waters of baptism are also a reminder. They remind us to be careful where we draw our lines. Because we can be sure that most likely God will be on the other side of that line! Whenever we exclude people from our midst, we exclude Christ from our midst also. For example we might struggle to welcome gays and lesbians into our midst. But God does it every day. He even did it in our story. Because the word eunuch in the New Testament most of the times means not what we would expect it to mean but it describes someone who is homosexual. God invites the Ethiopian eunuch into His family. Without asking him who or what he is.

God invites the outcasts of society to come and share in His family. And He invites us to welcome them also. God does not stay inside the boundaries we set Him. He is bigger and more loving than that!

We all know of that call. We all know of our new life in Christ. We all know that God forgave all our sins at our baptism. But we also know that we constantly fall short. We still sin. We still break each others hearts. And we still turn away from God.

Does that mean we need a new baptism every once in a while? Does this mean that our baptism is like paint which faints over time and needs a new overcoat?

No, though baptism we are forgiven. Once and for all! And no matter what we do, nothing will change that. Our texts for today remind us: God loves us. He cares for us. Every time we come to the table God comes also to meet us and to declare the forgiveness of all our sins. The table is therefore also reminder of our baptism.

We don’t need a second baptism for forgiveness. God has already declared us righteous through Christ. So whenever we doubt we can go back. We can go back to the table. And we can go back to our baptism. There we will find strength and faith for our way ahead.

Sometimes it is enough to remember our baptism or to just see water or bread to feel strengthened. But sometimes we need more. So today I would like to invite you to remember your baptism. Most of us won’t have any memories of the event because we were way too young to remember today. But there are other ways to remember.

I invite you to come and gather around the fountain and remember your baptism.

Maybe you wonder right now if you will be welcome around the waters of baptism. Maybe you feel that you are too broken to come. Or maybe you have been outcast before. But remember God welcomes us. And so do we today as the Body of Christ. Come! Feel welcomed! And find new life!

(Continue with Affirmation of Baptism p. 234)

May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.


ladybird said...

Liebe Frau Ringel,

ich mag ihre Predigten, lese sie gerne ab und zu, auch - aber nicht nur - wegen der Sprache.

Doch würde ich gerne auch wieder einmal ein bisschen was von ihnen persönlich erfahren und von Ringelmann und Ringelkind.

Liebe Grüße aus der alten Welt.

Frau Marienkäfer

Das kleine Brüllen said...

Liebe Frau Ringelstrumpf,
ich hoffe, es geht euch gut!

Eva said...

Liebe Frau Ringel, ich hoffe, es geht Ihnen gut? Unbekannterweise beste Grüße aus dem großen weiten Blogland,