Monday, May 4, 2015

God of Life

The first time I met Karl, Gus’s father, was at the Bishop’s convocation.
Bishop’s convocation is a yearly event when all the Lutheran pastors in New England get together for refreshment and to learn new things.
It was my first Bishop’s convocation here in New England.
I didn’t know a lot of people, but since I had grown up here I had some friends.
It was toward the end of the night when my friend Dave said that we should go to the room of Joe Ekeberg for a night cap.
In the room were a bunch of pastors and Karl.
I was impressed with Karl because amongst all these pastors he kept asking questions, and he would then challenge the answer.
Maybe because his dad was a pastor he was not intimidated by all these pastoral people.
Karl that night exemplified an important part of a mature faith, the ability to ask questions.
A true living faith means that we are engaged in the deep questions that faith gives us.
And today we are here to witness together as a faith community the baptism of Gus Ekeberg.
Today is only the beginning of a life, it is only the beginning of a faith journey.
One thing that we know for sure today is that we don’t know what Gus’s journey will be like.
We don’t know what he will face in his life.
We don’t know what will be the ways that he will need to change and grow.
We don’t know what special skills he will have that he can use to serve the world.
We don’t know what challenges he will face.
It is what makes today so wonderful for all of us, but especially for Karl and Erika, we/they get to watch Gus grow, change, and become what he will become.
We/ they get to be there when Gus asks the hard questions, wonders out loud, stretches his parents patience.

I mention all this because we often think of baptism in the wrong way.
We think it is about death.
We think that we are baptized so that when we die we go to heaven.
Baptism is not about death, it is about life.
It is not here only for that final moment of earthly life, but it is here for us throughout life.
Today is the start of a life of faith for Gus, but only a start, and baptism is the assurance of God’s care and love for the rest of that journey.

Our Gospel this morning is about this life.
Jesus this morning tells us, “I am the vine, you are the branches.”
I don’t know too much about horticulture, but I know enough that if you rip off a branch from the vine it will die.
Our lives are given meaning, value by being attached to Jesus Christ.
Our lives are given unconditional love by being attached to Jesus Christ, because we worship a God of life.
We worship a God who gives us life, creates us, and then helps to mold and shape who and what we become.

I have been thinking about this a lot this week.
My vacation started on Friday when I went to the funeral of a man I knew from Calumet named Ray.
His wife and kids where on staff and he volunteered to help out in the camp ground.
One of the things he did was drive what we called the honey wagon.
The honey wagon was the machine that pumped out the sewer systems of the trailers on the camp ground.
The thing about Ray was that he made that job looked like fun.
Ray always had a smile on his face ready with joke.
Anyone who can do that job and make it look like so much fun was a special person.
At his funeral people talked about his life, about the love he shared, the gifts he gave to his family, friends, community, and church.

I also ended my vacation on Friday and Saturday by attending the funeral of my friend Sarah.
I have known Sarah her whole life.
My parents worked at calumet with her dad when they were teenagers.
Sarah and I worked at Calumet together.
Her and her husband Dave started dating the same summer that Vicki and I started dating.
They got married a couple of months after we did.
We lived downstairs from them in Seminary.
It was a sad day.
But at the funeral people talked about Sarah’s life.
How it touched so many people.
They talked of her compassion, her grace, her intellect, her faith in God, the way she made a difference in the world.

We spend lots of time looking for meaning in death.
Why? How?
I have never heard a satisfactory answer to any of those questions.
The conclusion that I have come to is that there is no meaning in death.
Death is a horrible nasty thing.
It is nasty because of its finality.
But we forget that we have a God of life.
We have a God who created us, a God who sustains us in all things, and a God who upholds us.
We have a God who sent his son so we might have life and have it in abundance.
We have a God who gives life meaning.
We have a God who tends the garden, a God who provides the vine and connects us to the source of all life, so we can share that with other people.
A God who helps us produce fruit in this world that makes the lives of people around us better.
We are the branches and the source of life is Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ redefined for us what true life is, and what it means to have true life.
Jesus Christ takes away the power and sting of death, so that in it we don’t see the finality we see a gateway to eternal life.
As we continue to celebrate Easter we look for life.
We yearn for life.
In his death on the cross Jesus shows us that what matters is really life.
And Jesus redefines the meaning of that life.
Jesus gives us gifts and vitality to spread to other people.
That is what we celebrate today.

I have enjoyed getting to know Karl and Erika better.
On the day Gus was born I went to see them at Concord hospital.
I was impressed with how calm Erika was as a new mother.
How much she loved her son.
Karl and Erika are going to give Gus so many good things in life.
But the best is today.
They have tied his life to the vine.
They have given Gus the beginnings of faith, so that his life will be one that has meaning and value.
His life will be about using the gifts God has given to make other lives better.

It will not always be a smooth ride.
There will be lots of twists and turns, ups and downs.
There will be lots of questions to ask.
But in the end there will be life, there will be God who gives all of life new and important meaning.

And for all of us who are here this morning let us take today to not only celebrate this baptism but also to celebrate ours.
To remember that it was for life.
That moment when water is poured on our heads our lives forever abide in Jesus Christ.
We are the branches who need the vine for life, not for death.

Let us remember that today God has created this day for us, let us live it as God would have us live it.
Let our lives abide in God so that we might really live.
Let us love out loud, give freely, laugh often, forgive quickly, and have life in abundance.

No comments:

Post a Comment