Tag Archives: Sacrament of Baptism

Discipleship Today: A Sermon for Allie’s Baptism

A Sermon for 10 February 2019

For the next several weeks in this season of Epiphany, the lectionary takes us to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  Today our reading follows Jesus’ first two healing stories recorded in detail by Luke – one being the healing of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law when Jesus was at Simon Peter’s house.  The gospel next reports that many were brought to Jesus for healing.  Jesus departs to pray in a deserted place alone while he’s sought by the crowds who naturally want him to remain to do more marvelous works in their midst.  Perhaps because of his time of prayer alone, Jesus declares to them:  “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose” (Luke 4:43).  He goes on his way to continue his mission, and then we hear in Luke 5:1-11 what next takes place.  Listen for God’s word to us through this reading.

“Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret,” (which is the Sea of Galilee) “and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.  Jesus got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore.  Then Jesus sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.  When he had finished speaking, Jesus said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”  Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing.  Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.”  When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break.  So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them.  And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink.  But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”  For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon.  Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.”  11 When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.”

            This is the word of God for the people of God.

Thanks be to God!


In a few minutes, Allie will receive the Sacrament of Baptism.  Like most of us raised Presbyterian, her journey with Christ begins by parents making promises for her.  Family and friends committed to supporting her.  A whole community of faith vowing to pray for her and nurture her faith whatever ways we can as she soon goes with her family to their new home in Texas.  Like most of us, her path of following Christ will unfold gradually.  No dramatic encounter with Jesus as we hear of in Luke’s gospel when Peter and his business partners James and John brought to shore boats overflowing with fish, then left it all behind to live out their call from Christ.  I suspect that for Allie, as for most of us, discernment of the Way will unfold more like an opening cocoon.  Slowly, when the time is just right.  She’ll hear the stories of Jesus as we all have along our way.  Learn the songs of faith.  Figure out how it works best for her to pray to be connected to The Source in order to discern the steps to take each day.

Maybe I’m pining for the past of how amazingly clarifying it must have been to have Jesus show up on the scene.  Walk right into the vessel of your profession to transform a stinky old fishing boat into a pulpit from which he preached.  Asking Peter to put out just off the shore that he could tell the good news of God’s kingdom.  After Jesus’ Amen, his command to put out into the deep water to let down the nets for a catch, changed Peter’s little boat into a eucharist table – clearly showing the goodness of God!  The fish overflowing in such abundance, Peter had to call James and John quick to come help!  One commentator reminds that “More than a ‘natural miracle,’ the catch of fish also is layered with eucharistic allusions.  (For) fish mean food, and wherever we read about fish in the Gospels, we are reading about the miracle of sustenance for the new community that Jesus is creating in the call of the first disciples” (Feasting on the Word, Yr. C, Vol. 1, Peter Eaton, p. 335).  Wouldn’t it be wonderful on our own journeys as disciples to have such a clear, concrete sign of the sustenance we need?  The food for which our spirits long that will keep us filled as a community and as individual followers of Christ each day as we serve wherever we are sent.  I want that for little Allie – don’t you?  And for ourselves.  The miracle of the sustenance we need to grow more each day as Christ’s faithful disciples.

That’s what we are.  Through baptism:  sealed with the outward sign that we belong to Christ.  We have committed to being his faithful disciples!  . . .  But.  How often we feel just like Peter does in the story:  unworthy of God’s Presence.  Not good enough to be put in service like Christ.  Ill-equipped to proclaim good news.  To speak of God’s work to re-create this world.  How often we think our efforts aren’t enough as Christ’s disciples.  Or that, like Peter, James, and John, the REAL disciples; the gig’s about leaving it all behind – becoming like a totally different person with a totally different life trajectory.  And let’s face it:  there’s about 0% chance most any of us are going to leave it all behind dramatically – willingly divest ourselves of our employment, our families, our homes, our investment portfolios to chase all over the countryside healing and teaching and enlisting outsiders in God’s resurrection movement!  So, we decide being a disciple was for folks long, long ago.  Ones first encountering Jesus of Nazareth when his ministry began.  What does discipleship look like today?  For folks like us who aren’t being recruited to begin what Peter, James, and John began world-wide because of Christ.  What will being a faithful disciple look like for little ones freshly baptized – and for us, some baptized over eighty years ago?

Recently I came across anonymous words that were written by someone on a spiritual retreat.  I don’t know much about the person, but it seems the person was wrestling with what discipleship looks like today.  The words read:  “It is baffling to me, who always has been so driven to achieve, that I find myself at a time of life now in which I am driven to connect.  To connect with companions and allow that process to unfold.  To connect with the Holy and to allow that relationship to unfold.  To connect with my deepest Self – and to allow that process and person to be revealed.  So, the intended course becomes much more a following than a driven, planned-by-me direction.  Is it all simply about following?  Moments to decide still come.  But it is as if I have committed to the unfolding – to following the Mystery.  The allowing.  The listening.  The waiting.  All shall be well, (as Julian of Norwich reminds).  Intentions still arise, but they are different than I ever could have imagined for myself.”  The retreatant then wonders:  “Is this what Christ meant?  Crucify your self – your need for your own plan, in order just to follow?  Follow the nudge – the thread?  The stirring of what brings you fully alive?  Let the rest be.  Then, might I heartily be able to say:  ‘I HAVE decided to follow the Christ!  No turning back.  No turning back!’” (anonymous words from a spiritual retreatant).

Is this what discipleship will look like for Allie, and for all of us baptized as disciples of Christ?  Following the nudge.  Paying attention for the stirring of what brings us fully alive.  Allowing Way to unfold – sometimes waiting; always listening.  Not frantically groping in darkness at the Mystery; but allowing the Mystery to call to us as who we are and how we are to be in the world each day is revealed through those ah-has.  Those awakening insights that cause inner shifts.  So, we see the world a bit differently.  We willingly try new ways of caring – new ways of showing through action and word the good news of a kingdom in our midst.  A reign residing in and beyond us that is the direction of our path.

In a few minutes, little Allie will receive the Sacrament of Baptism.  A reminder that the Light of Christ is in her and it is incumbent upon her, as she grows, to shine.  Like Peter.  Like James.  Like John.  Like Jesus.  Like us:  baptized in Christ, disciples of the Way, we are raised to the new life of following the Light to be light in the world for all to see.  . . .  Come!  Let us gather at the font.  Let us celebrate the baptism of the newest disciple of Christ!

In the name of the life-giving Father, the life-redeeming Son, and the life-sustaining Spirit, Amen.

© Copyright JMN – 2019 (all rights reserved).


Family Letters

A sermon 7 June 2015 – 2nd Sunday after Pentecost (An infant Baptism Sunday!)

A reading from the gospel according to Mark 3:20-35. Listen for God’s word to us.

“Then Jesus went home. And the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered. Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

This is the word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God!

Admittedly, this is not the best text for a day like today. Here we have a baptism of a beautiful little boy who has been born into a wonderfully loving family and we’re hearing Jesus kinda casting aside his own biological family. As Jesus is going around Galilee healing those others wouldn’t touch. Calling regular ole’ folks to come follow in the ways of the reign of God he is announcing. Saying that God’s favor is with those who suffer. Even breaking Sabbath rules as he’s trying to let folks know that in him the feast has begun! Then, early in his ministry, he’s reported as going home. Who would have thought that there – by his own mother and brothers and sisters, he’d be told to get back in line. We may understand that they were just afraid for the reputation and life of one they loved. But their seeking to talk sense into him shows his biological family is as confused as the next that the Spirit at work in him is of God – not another. He must be so very disappointed that not even his mother and siblings can recognize the difference. So that when they persist in pushing their way through the crowd to get close to him, at least according to the text – maybe it just didn’t get recorded that he finally went out to speak with Mary and his family. But according to the text, he proclaims that his true family are those right there with him. Seeking healing, opened to hearing, wanting to know how best to live according to God’s rule of love. “Here are my mother and my brothers!” he’s reported as saying. “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:35). If we want to build up the connections in our biological families, we will not find Jesus’ support of that here.

The last thing I want to have happen today is for little Daniel, who is about to be brought forward by his loving mother and father that they might make the promises of Christian discipleship for him. At least for now until he’s old enough to claim Christ’s saving and sending love for himself. We don’t want him to absorb any kind of teaching today that gets between him and his family. We want to hold in balance the beauty of life together in a Christian biological family that will care for him at home and teach him the faith and the family of God here – his spiritual family of the church – that also will care for him and raise him up to God’s desires for his life. As that is part of what we celebrate today, listen to a few family letters. The first one goes like this:

Dear Church Family: It’s little Daniel here. We all know I can’t yet write, but if I could, here is what I would say to you as the family of God in which I am included, as my baptism shows today. So dear Church – which includes my mom and dad and big brother too. And while I’m at it, I might as well say this to those of my extended family who have come today who too are a part of God’s church, just not necessarily gathering here each week. So (as is said in the South) to all ya’ll: thank you! Thank you for welcoming me into this loving fellowship where young and old alike seek to worship and follow God. Thank you for supporting my mom, dad, and big brother as they made space for me in their hearts and home. I am so young and so small so that it might be easy to overlook my needs among you. God has put me here with you in order for me to begin to experience that unconditional love that is God in our midst. You can practice it – as will my mom and dad at home – so I will begin to feel it. . . . My little body is growing and taking in this world through you all each day. For the next several years as I continue to develop, you – my church family alongside my family at home – will be how I come to know God. How I come to trust and love and feel peace in my life. . . . Tend me well – even if it seems I’m too little to matter much, because you are setting the foundation for me to be able one day to say yes to God! To say: “Yes, God! I love you so very much and I want to use the gifts and abilities you have put in me in order to live a little bit more like Jesus each day – in order for the principles of your reign to be seen through me – things like grace and forgiveness and acceptance of all as those in whom the imprint of God can be seen.” . . . Every generation has its challenges – I’m not too young to know that. And I hope, church family, that you will remember mine. That I have been born into this great big, globally-interconnected world. Things are changing at the speed of light and babies like me have no idea what it all will look like just a few years from now when I start kindergarten. I’ve already heard of scary things like bullying on the playground and violence in schools and horrible storms and bitterly dividing fear. I need you to tell me the stories of God’s presence always with me so that I grow up secure in the love that never lets me go – no matter what I have to face in life. I need you to live the ways of God’s reign so that I will know that the other kinds of things I see which seek to hurt and destroy are NOT the ways or the will of the God who lives in us and wants us all to know we are one united family. I need you to pay attention to me and all the other boys and girls of this church and community. When I seem withdrawn, just hug me and ask me if everything is ok. When I’m acting out, sit with me until we’re both clear what I really need. Pray for me, please, and teach me to pray for you too as I get older. Be the kind of family that lets me know you always celebrate me, and support me, and accept me as I grow into whoever my little body, mind, and spirit will grow to be. Listen to me and love me – not just today when I’m all cute and cuddly, but in the years ahead when I’m a rambunctious elementary school boy and a rapidly changing puberty-stricken teen and a young man heading off into the world to find God’s place for me. Remember the promises you are making to me today so that I will be able to grow into one who can say for himself: “I believe that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. I reject the things that lead us away from God and with God’s help I seek to fulfill my calling as a disciple of Jesus Christ!” These are my wishes and words to you on this monumental day in my life with you, with the world, and with God!

At least, that’s what I imagine little Daniel would say to you today, his church home – and his biological family. . . . And because I’ve been listening to you all during my time as your interim pastor, I can imagine exactly what you’d say right back to little Daniel.

Dear Daniel Patrick – precious, precious child of God! We are SO excited to welcome you into this expression of God’s family! We are young and old alike – a few from each generation – and we seek to love one another and those beyond this membership as much as we love God. We practice grace here. We forgive. We start over. We are generous and we seek the justice – the just-enough-for-us-all, which is God’s desire for the world. We have so much to teach you about the grace of God and the ways of God’s Spirit in our lives. How we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. How we can face any challenge that comes to us collectively or in our individual lives back home because we are never alone – we have each other and we have God among us too. We want you to know that you are so very treasured by the great Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of it all! . . . O little Daniel, we look in your face and it is as if we can see the holiness of God. The purity of Christ. The joy of the Holy Spirit pulsing through each little finger and toe of your sweet body. We want to remember that every day. Not just today when life is new for you, but each day as you grow. And may we never forget that each step of your life, YOU have something to teach us too. How God lives through and experiences this world in you! . . . We wish all the chaos, trouble, and difficulty of life in this world were not here and never, ever would come to touch you. But we know; we all know the challenges of the living of these days. The sadnesses that come when you open wide your heart to love in a world that is not perfect. The fear that can get under your skin when you live by what your eyes can see instead of what God’s Spirit in and among us can do. But o the joy too! The beauty of this gift we are given called life! May you never forget – and may we, and your parents, and brother, and whole extended family never let you forget to cherish each glorious breath of this journey of life. To enjoy the ways Christ lives in you. To be courageous and ready to pass along all that you will learn in the adventure of life! . . . On this very important day for us all, our prayer for you is a life filled with peace, joy, and love. Brimming with the hope we have in God. The never-ending possibilities known to us because of our resurrecting LORD of Life! . . . Savor each step, little Daniel! And thanks be to God! For we cannot wait to see it all unfold!

I think it’s safe to say, that’s just a fraction of the hopes and dreams we as God’s people have for this fresh little one created, redeemed, and sustained each day by God! . . . May God make it all so!

In the name of the life-giving Father, the life-redeeming Son, and the life-sustaining Spirit, Amen!

© Copyright JMN – 2015  (All rights reserved.)