Sunday, May 13, 2018

Sermon: Exaudi (Easter 7) and Baptism of Sophie Ricks - 2018

13 May 2018

Text: John 15:26-16:4 (Ezek 36:22-28, 1 Pet 4:7-14)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!
“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses,” says the prophet Ezekiel.  The prophet speaks of this cleansing and also of the Spirit coming to us to put a heart of flesh in us, to replace the heart of stone that is our sinful condition (“we are by nature sinful and unclean” as we say in the liturgy).  The Holy Spirit guides us to obey the Lord, and God repeats His promise: “You shall be My people, and I will be your God.”

And this morning, this final Sunday in the season of Easter, we have yet again watched the Lord keep His promise.  We have witnessed the moving of the Spirit.  We have seen the Gospel of Jesus Christ applied physically to a little one: one whose words and deeds clearly cannot merit what God has done for her.

It is appropriate that this little one’s middle name is “Grace” – for this is a confession of both her weakness and her strength.  She relies on God alone: “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” she is entitled to pray to her Father, along with the prayer, “Teach me Your way, O Lord.”

And this is where her first name is also appropriate: “Sophie” – based on the Greek word for “wisdom.”  And the beginning of this wisdom, the beginning of Sophie’s new life, is indeed the “fear of the Lord.”

Sophie Grace Ricks has been cleansed by clean water, and she has been redeemed by grace, set apart in holiness to be instructed the wisdom of the very Word of God.  And this water and Word and Spirit have been given to her on Mother’s Day, not only honoring the mother who bore her in the flesh, but also the mother who has borne her in spirit, in the new birth, from the womb of the baptismal font: her mother, the Holy Church.

Little Sophie is going to need wisdom and grace to navigate this fallen and corrupted world.  She will need the love and perseverance of her parents, Erik and Aimee.  She will need the prayers and support of her godparents: Emery and Erin.  She will need the love and care of her extended family and the encouragement and spiritual care of her brothers and sisters in Christ.

This is a major undertaking that we are all committing to, dear friends.  All of us.  We are all responsible.  Erik, when we recite the catechism saying: “How the head of the family should teach his household,” that means you.  Aimee, when you gave birth to Sophie, this was not the conclusion of a pregnancy, but rather the beginning of a lifetime of the fervent prayers as only a mother can offer on behalf of her dear children.

Sophie has been washed and cleansed and claimed by God.  She has been given the gift of eternal life.  But she needs to be nurtured, every day of her life.  At this point in her life, she needs constant care: feeding, cleaning, educating, praying, hearing the Word, and learning the priority of the faith from her parents: not by words, but by deeds.  She will never know a time when she didn’t come to the communion rail and witness her parents reverently receiving the body and blood of Christ and offering their “Amen.”  Her earliest memories will include having the sign of the holy cross traced on her forehead as the events of this very day are recalled, the promises made by God repeated to her again and again in this holy house.

She will be brought up in the discipline of the Law and the forgiveness of the Gospel, the promises of God, the dominion over the devil, and the conquest of death. 

She will need to be raised in the Spirit, the Helper who bears witness about our Lord Jesus Christ – the one who bore the cross for her, who shed His blood for her, who rose from the grave for her, and who will return to give her, by His wisdom and by His grace: “the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.”

Whether we like it or not, Sophie has been brought into the world during a time of testing.  “Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.  And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor Me,” says our Lord.  But remember, our Lord gives us His holy Word, “I have said these things to you to keep you from falling away,” He promises.  Just as St. Peter says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you.” 

We Christian parents have an obligation to train our children for battle, to stand for that which is righteous and true and just and honorable, for that which is godly and beautiful and in accordance with the Lord’s glorious design for each one of us.  All of us in this congregation have the holy obligation of prayer and commitment for the sake of this little one.  As she gets older, what will she see here in this holy house?  Will she see lukewarm people going through the motions?  Or will she see the power of the Holy Spirit at work?  Will we teach her that Christianity is just one of many options, or will she know that it is the one true faith by which eternal life comes to us in our Lord Jesus Christ?  Will she hear the prayers and hymns of others like her who have been baptized into Christ?  Will she experience wisdom and grace in truth and in deed?

We have been baptized into Christ, dear friends!  We have been given the mark of the Lord!  We have been sealed and set apart in the baptismal grace offered to us by God in His holy wisdom.  We are not motivated by a desire to save ourselves or prove ourselves worthy.  We are motivated by love.  St. Peter teaches us the urgency we face: “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.  Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

The thing that children need more than anything is love.  The thing that adults need more than anything is love.  The thing that the church needs more than anything is love.  And that love is carried out daily in acts of service to this little one: mainly offered by her parents, but shown to her by each one of us as our vocations suggest.

Holy Baptism has placed wisdom and grace upon Sophie.  She has been received into the kingdom and into the promises of God.  “I will sprinkle clean water on you,” says the Lord, to Sophie and to us, “and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.”

This is indeed the wisdom and the grace of God!  Amen.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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