October 6, 2013: Mavery’s Baptism & World Communion

Posted on : Oct 3rd, 2013 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

“Unconditionally Loved Forever”

Wow, this Sunday is packed with excitement!   First, it is World Communion Sunday.  World Communion Sunday may not seem all that special, but here is why it is.  After World War II most of Europe was “blown to pieces” – totally destroyed, lying in devastation.  And as horrible as that was, the United States had done something that was unimaginable in the history of the world.  We dropped two nuclear weapons on Japan, weapons so powerful they incinerated people and buildings for miles around.  Those who were not instantly killed were left badly burned and/or suffering from the effects of radiation.  It was clearly one of the darkest hours in human history.

Much of what led us to this horrific place in history was Hitler’s co-opting of Christianity, creating an Aryan supremacy in place of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  One of the ironic aspects of this way of thinking was, if Jesus were alive during Hitler’s time, he would have been exterminated in the concentration camps!  Jesus was Jewish from birth to death!  Hitler “pretended” Jesus was Christian, not Jewish.  Not too far from the irrational theology of the religious right today, especially those who currently define themselves as “Christian Zionists.”

But what was even more appalling was that virtually none of the Christian churches spoke out against Hitler and his abhorrent spirituality.  So, after the war had ended and much of the world lay in ruin, the leaders of most Christian traditions met together and confessed their complicity, through both silence and action, and pledged to work together for peace and justice with one unified voice.  One of the commitments that was made was for all religious traditions to celebrate Communion (our common union in Christ) on the first Sunday of October.

That tradition continues today.  So, once a year, we celebrate, as the Rev. William Sloan Coffin, pastor of the Riverside Church in NY City so beautifully taught:  “We have more in common than in conflict.”  Or as the Apostle Paul taught, “We are all one in Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female, for we are all one in Christ.”  (Galatians 3: 28)

Interestingly, those beautiful words that Paul spoke became the words that were proclaimed as thousands of believers were baptized.  So how appropriate, on this day, that we celebrate the baptism of Mavery Adelle Hargrove, Mark and Mike’s daughter.

This Sunday, we’re going to focus on “What does it mean to be baptized?”  The more accurate way to state that question is, “What does it mean to be loved by God?”

In the graphic above you’ll see the words of Margaret Feinberg:  “When God echoes ‘I love you’ it’s not a slice of information but a ‘feast of transformation.’”

Baptism is about entering into a covenant relationship with God that can’t be broken and that is meant to change our lives for the better.  Or as the Apostle Paul said,

“May you have the power to comprehend with all the saints,

the breadth and length and height and depth (of God’s love),

and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge.”

(Ephesians 3:18-19)

I know it’s hard to believe, but in the years after the death of Jesus, Baptism was the “hot button issue” of Christianity.  There were horrible fights about who could be baptized and who couldn’t.  Many followers of Jesus were put to death (stoned) or “excommunicated” (thrown out of the Church) for baptizing someone who wasn’t supposed to be baptized.  But in the end, the transforming power of Jesus’ love won.  For you see, Baptism isn’t a statement about God’s love, it is the power of God’s love to change us, to transform us, to make us better human beings.

I think that is a message we need to hear anew today.



~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Ephesians 3: 1-20

Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the working of God’s power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that God has carried out in Christ Jesus, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in Christ. I pray therefore that you may not lose heart over my sufferings for you; they are your glory.

For this reason I bow my knees before God, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of God’s glory, God may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through Christ’s Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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