Sermon: II Pentecost June 23, 2019
We yield thee hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it hath pleased thee to regenerate thy Servants with thy Holy Spirit, to receive us for thine own Children, and to incorporate us into thy holy Church. And humbly we beseech thee to grant, that we, being dead unto sin, may live unto righteousness, and being buried with Christ in his death, may also be partakers of his resurrection; so that finally, with the residue of thy holy Church, he may be inheritors of thine everlasting kingdom;In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Not two weeks ago, we were ready to baptize a couple of little ones. We had rounded the bases of the the liturgical seasons having punctuated the Church Year with a lovely set of baptisms. Given that, I’d like to think of our baptismal celebration this morning as a kind of victory lap, giving thanks to God for his provision for us as our families grow and as they in turn help our parish grow. I think it’s also true that a baptism is also a wonderful way to look forward to this next week of VBS, where we’ll have a chance to draw yet more kids and families into the life and love of Christ.
As I was preparing for this morning and for this week, I kept coming back to a single verse from this week’s lesson from St. Paul’s letter from the Galatians. He wrote to his friends at that ancient Church:
“As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”
It’s that little turn of phrase: “clothed yourselves with Christ” that got me thinking about my own baptism, our own baptisms, and therefore the baptism we are ready to celebrate this morning. It’s interesting because Paul just kind of drops this “clothing” metaphor in the middle of a longer set of teachings about Christian identity. Galatians has much to say about the primacy of Christian identity and calling even above other more traditional demarkations that seem more natural at times. Doesn’t he write that: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female?” Doesn’t he remind the Galatians and therefore us that “all of us are therefore one in Christ Jesus?” And so there is this sense in which being clothed in Christ in baptism is putting on clothes that signify our allegiance to God before any other.
But there seems to be another way we can come to this idea of being clothed in Christ: not just like putting on some Jesus overcoat, but more like falling into the clothing itself, as if to be so enveloped by Christ’s loving care, so inhabiting his grace and love, that nothing else in the world can even come close to assailing us. In the original context, Paul was making the point that this inhabitation of Christ was more profound a righteousness, a deeper holiness, and a greater closeness to God than the Law of Moses could ever have offered to anyone, either Hebrew or Gentile. A couple thousand years later, we are still trying to consider together what it means to live in Christ together seeking after righteousness, holiness, and union with God in Christ.
And seeing as how we’re completely given over to the care and ministry of young children today and for the rest of the week, let’s consider how safe we all felt when our families wrapped us up in a blanket when it was cold out or in a towel when we got stuck in the rain. Many of us are very blessed to be able to think back to a time when we were so safe, so secure in that cloak of our parents’ love that we could fall into a deep and restful sleep, contented that all was right in the world and our families had it all under control. Man being a kid can be pretty awesome.
I think that’s back on the table for us when we reflect on and live into our baptismal identity. We are all so well loved and cared for as we are clothed in Christ. Christ’s great love for us that as we put on the cloth, the robe, the blanket of his grace, his love and comfort settles deep into our being; healing us of our brokenness, binding our wounded spirits, forgiving us our sins, and remaking us through and through, regenerating us back into the fullness of God’s intention for us from the beginning.
That promise given to us in the sacrament of baptism, that promise of this new life in Christ with its attendant loves and works, this is the invitation we are extending to dear little Evelyn this morning, and the invitation we are extending to our VBS students this week. Honestly, that invitation is always open to us that we might grow in deeper union with Christ and with each other. I hope that as you fall into the safety of Christ this morning, meeting his divine presence at the altar, you will be mindful of your identity in him, and ready to pray for us this week as we serve at Vacation Bible School.
To God be all glory. Amen.
Emmanuel Episcopal Church
The Very Reverend David Bumsted