The Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost – The Rev. Leigh Mackintosh

The Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost: October 22, 2017

Exodus 33:12-23  |  Psalm 99
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10  |  Matthew 22:15-22

Preacher: The Rev. Leigh Mackintosh,
Associate Rector of St. Michael’s Church

What is the one sacred gift that all the world’s religions share?

Water.

Water, the most vital element to life on earth is also an essential element in our spiritual lives.

Across faith traditions, water holds sacred meaning in worship, prayer, and daily life, marking the beginning and end of life on earth and life in God and all the journeys in between.

Across the world, water brings people together around sacred themes of creation, rebirth and immortality

Themes of judgment, death, and destruction.

Water signifies our spiritual lives–our thirst for God, for community, for deeper meaning.

Water cleanses, purifies, renews, transforms, restoring balance and inner freedom to love, serve, and praise God and others.

The sacred gift of water flowing through these different religions reminds us that though our rituals and beliefs may differ, the core of who we are in God, the common humanity we all share with one another is as clear as clean water.

Today, baptism invites us to immerse ourselves in these same sacred themes that flow within our own Christian faith and rediscover what it means to be sacred, pure, transformed.

Baptism reminds us that the beginning of our life in Christ marks a new beginning of God’s creative work in us and the world.

As we immerse ourselves in the living waters of Christ, we experience a kind of restoration, what it means to be truly human.

To be baptized is to recover the humanity that God first intended (and always desires for us!).

Our prayer book teaches that baptism immerses us in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, marking us as his own forever.

Jesus himself speaks of his suffering and death on the cross as baptism,  As an immersion he endures to bring about salvation, healing, and new life for all.

Being baptized into the death of Christ means that we go down into the darkness of Jesus suffering and are swamped by the reality of what he endured.

We go down to these depths not just in Baptism, but in Holy Week and Easter and every time we break bread and share communion.

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams says in his book Being Christian, “Baptism means being with Jesus in the depths — immersing ourselves in the depths of human need, of our own need — And immersing ourselves in the depths of God’s love — in the depths where the Holy Spirit is re-creating and refreshing human life as God means it to be.”

“The baptized person stands in the middle of the heart of God and in the middle of a world of threat, suffering, sin and pain. And because Jesus has taken his stand right in the middle of these two contradictory realities, And this is where we take our stand as his body in the world.”

Baptism calls us into deeper life and love and service of God and others.

What was once done for us must now be enacted in us.

The new life we receive in baptism, this new humanity created around Jesus does not make us always successful, always perfect, always in control.

Being Christ’s body means reaching out a hand from the depths of chaos and pain, to be touched by the hand of God.

In essence, baptism does not give us some special privilege; it does not separate us out as superior to the rest of the human race.

Rather it calls us to live a radical new life of solidarity with others.

To be washed, cleansed and re-created; to immerse ourselves in the fullness of our messy, chaotic world and the fullness of God’s love.

Let’s just be quiet for a moment and think of a single drop of water…

If a single drop of rain falls into the sea,
does it add anything more to the world?
Not that the eye can see or mind can grasp,
for the sea in all its greatness and glory seems
just the same as it ever was
before the rain ever fell.
And yet for the fallen raindrop,
life is transformed;
the world is changed.
When the raindrop meets the sea,
it ceases to be just a raindrop;
in that moment, it becomes
something far greater than any eye can see
or mind can grasp.
A drop of life’s fullness dips deeper
into the life of all things.
When raindrop meets wave, an indissoluble bond is made;
from now until forever,
their lives flowing together,
unceasingly as one.
And what of the raindrop plunging into the sea?
Is there anything it can give?

Even the tiniest of raindrops still makes a mark–
tiny ripples echoing across the face of the deep;
in that moment, when ocean wave rises up to meet raindrop
the fiercest and stormiest of seas
is touched,
is moved
by such a gift of selfless love.

Though a drop of rain has little to give,
in giving everything,
the world glimpses
how even the smallest and poorest among us
can change the tides forever.
When a single drop of rain falls into the sea, it sends forth tiny ripples of hope.
And as the world looks out over the surface of the deep,
seeing all the chaos and suffering and great need,
We glimpse the depths of God’s great love
in those tiny ripples,
In those tiny waves of grace
echoing eternally across the sea.