Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Baptismal Booth in the Wilderness... (Sermon Epiphany 3 Year C)

Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10 Psalm 19 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a Luke 4:14-21

The exile was over. The Lord's favor had come to the people of Israel as the prophet
Isaiah had foretold. After decades of exile in Babylon they were able to return home.
It was time to celebrate with a great amount of feasting. Everyone was to be involved
and those who had much were obligated to provide for those who did not. This feasting
took place not in the newly built homes, not in the city center, not in the very places
they were celebrating returning to... But in tents built of branches outside the city in the

For the people of Israel were not celebrating their stations, all would feast equally...

The people of Israel were not celebrating ownership, all would feast in crudely made
huts not their secure houses...

The people of Israel were not even celebrating place, for in the Exile they had learned
that God was not bound to Jerusalem or the temple...

The people of Israel were celebrating God's favor, God's grace... A grace not bound to
any class, a grace not dependent on ownership of anything, a grace that can abound in
any place at any time...

Jewish tradition continues to celebrate the Lord's favor in this very same way every fall
in a week long festival called Sukkoth. Individuals build three sided booths outside their
houses and there they eat their meals and throw parties to celebrate the Lord's favor.

So to we gather together today to celebrate with a meal the Lord's favor. We will gather
around this altar as equals. We are not here to celebrate our station in society. We are
not here to celebrate our political ideology. We are not here to celebrate the building,
traditions, and fond memories of St. Peter's Delaware. We are here to celebrate the
grace poured forth in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

But before we do that today we are all going to remember that once we too were exiles.
We are going to turn our backs to this altar and create a tent around that font. We are
going to enter the wilderness outside of this community and there find and be found by
one who is not yet a part of us.

When we return from that wilderness, when we again face this altar there will be in our
midst someone new born to Life in Christ... But that is not all... We as a community will
be reborn... An essential part of our community, of the body of Christ, that we have
been without will now be a part of us... The community will return transformed...

Look around you... I really mean it... look around you at the faces of the people you are
about to enter into the wilderness with... Some might be from the same social circle as
you... Some might not... Some might hold the same political ideologies as you... Some
might not... Some are people you really like being in church with... And some might

But today we do not celebrate our social circle... Today we do not celebrate our political
ideology... Today we do not celebrate the church that we like... Today we celebrate the
Lord's favor...

The favor, the grace, that calls for one body with many different parts... Parts that must
look at each other and say "I have need of you"... Parts that say "when you suffer I
suffer"... Parts that say " when you are honored I rejoice"... We are called to be this
body in the midst of our differences, for we cannot all be the same part, the same social
circle, the same political ideology, the same type of ministry... We are called to be many
diverse parts in the midst of one body... And today in the rite of baptism we will name
ourselves that body again and be made more complete as we are joined by a new
member, a new part, a new bit of diversity.

We are many parts but one Body in Christ. The spirit of The Lord is upon us. We are
anointed to bring good news to the poor. We are sent to bring release to captives, bring
sight to the blind, bring freedom to the oppressed. May the Lord's favor be upon us so
that we might do so for each other and all we meet.


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