June 11, 2017: "Washed Clean"
A sermon by Andrew Philip Long
The First Presbyterian Church of Enid, OK
June 11, 2017
Genesis 1:1-2:4a & Matthew 28:16-20
Sacraments make the invisible, visible, and Jesus Christ gave us two: The Lord’s Supper and Baptism. Sacraments make the invisible, visible. When we sit at Christ’s table, and eat the bread and drink the cup, we act out the mystery of a broken body and blood shed for us. When we sit at Christ’s table his words become real, particularly that the hungry will be fed and the thirsty satisfied. Sacraments make the invisible, visible. In the waters of baptism we see and hear and feel the that Christ has washed us clean. In the waters of baptism we cloth ourselves with Christ and live in confidence that we have been raised to new life in Jesus. Sacraments make the invisible, visible.
How often, though, do you think about your baptism? Sure, there are times like today when we reaffirm the baptismal covenant. But how often do you think of the day you were baptized? Honestly, it is not something I think about often enough. Of the two sacraments that Christ gave us, we think about and celebrate communion most and more often. We celebrate communion at least once a month on Sunday and every week during Wednesday Chapel Prayer. I had the honor of taking communion this week to 10 of our brothers and sisters who cannot attend Sunday worship. This is not the case with baptism: we do not celebrate it each week or each month, and I have never taken the sacrament of baptism to someone in their home. Christ gave us two sacraments, to remember him and celebrate our faith. Why is baptism so often left out? Why is the day we were washed clean a day we don’t think about often?
Conventional wisdom teaches us that if you want to be good at something—music, a sport, a talent, a skill—you have to practice it often. Most Christian traditions only baptize a person once—have you ever been able to do something perfectly only after doing it one time? I haven’t. I’m not suggesting we go about baptizing each other every day; once is enough because God’s grace is enough. I am, however, suggesting that we take a little more time each day and each week and each moment to remember and celebrate what has been done for us in baptism. We can do this by simply remembering what happened when we went down and came up from these waters. So what does happen in the waters of baptism?
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, the world we live in a treacherous place. Every day we are confronted with the reality of violence. Each day, rears its monstrous head hatred: hatred because of grace, gender, ethnicity, sexual expression, or religious belief. We are surrounded at all times by fear; fear of death, fear of the unknown, fear of sickness and disease. God’s good creation is scarred by injustice; some have a lot while even more have so little, some are treated differently because of the way they look or speak, systems are in place that are meant to keep some in their place. More and more we are being shown that meanness is acceptable, that lying has no consequences, and that isolation is the answer to our problems.
As a result, we injure each other. As a result, we judge each other and puff ourselves up because, thank God, we are not like them. Fear moves us to take up arms, physical weapons and deadly words, and we war not against fear but against each other. In the face of injustice, too often we remain silent, because somewhere along the line we bought into the lie that it is better to shut up than to stand up. We return meanness with ugly words, we answer lies with more lies, and we value separation more than unity.
Yes, the world we live in is chaotic and our hearts and minds are chaotic because of it. But remember, in the beginning creation was a watery and dark chaos. The earth was a formless void, everything was topsy-turvey, there was just a great, wide deep and nothing more. Over this chaos, this darkness, this empty void, God sent the wind of the Spirit. In the beginning, when there was nothing but chaos, God spoke and said, “Let there be!” and there was. There was light and night and day. There was dry ground to separate the waters. There were plants and every kind of tree to bear fruit. There were seasons and a light to rule the day and a light to rule the night. There were great seas creatures and monsters, and every living thing that walks and creeps on the earth. Then, there was a man and woman, created in God’s image, who were given care over everything God had created. God spoke and said, “Let there be!” and there was. There was order. The chaos had been destroyed!
The same waters that covered the formless and empty void at the beginning are the same as the waters of baptism. The world around us is chaotic; the world around us is topsy-turvy; the world around us is wide and deep and it is sometimes hard to see something of goodness, of hope. But God has spoken over these waters, and chaos has been destroyed. You and I were taken down into these waters, and there we died to everything that stands in opposition to God. You and I were then brought up from these waters, and wet and cold we opened our eyes to new life in Christ. On this side of the baptismal waters, the powers of the world no longer have control over us. On this side of the baptismal waters, we live Easter and not Good Friday. On this side of the baptismal waters, we have been washed clean, and claimed by God as God’s beloved children. God spoke and said, “Let there be!” and we are, beautiful and broken, beloved and redeemed.
In baptism we know this to be true. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
My friends, believe in the good news of the Gospel today: in baptism we have been washed clean from everything that stains us as God’s people. We have been washed of violence and hatred, fear and injustice. We have been washed of the need to speak nasty things, and the need to separate ourselves from one another. We have been washed, washed clean, by the goodness and mercy of God. Thanks be to God! The invisible has become visible; in God we are new creations, we are order in the midst of chaos, light that darkness can never overcome. With this good news let us all go into the world and bring others to these waters, confident in their power to make anyone clean. Christ is with us, even to the end of the age! Amen.