It has been a long Sunday, and it is only 4:15 p.m. Today, Saint Cyprian's welcomed a new member into the household of God and celebrated the 95th birthday of one our community's oldest members. Below is the sermon I prepared to preach, but today with so much going on (more on that some other time) I didn't stick to it word for word.
Blessed Easter Three.
A few months short of a year ago, I called one of the oldest members of this congregation, Ruby McDowell to set up a visit with her, and one of the first things she said to me, very clearly and deliberately was “I’m still here.” Each time since that first phone call I have walked into her lovely home carrying communion from St. Cyprian’s, Ruby has said these words again and again “I am still here.” with clarity and commitment. There is a connection between the words of this amazing typical Jamaican as Ruby calls herself --- “I am still here” and the powerful proclamation that Christians throughout the world make again and again about Jesus’ resurrection, “Alleluia, Christ is Risen.” Just as her beloved St. Cyprian’s Church says again and again to everyone who passes her by, or walks into her doors, or hears about something new going on within, we say clearly and deliberately “we are still here.” “Alleluia, Christ is Risen” Resurrection is about the persistent and insistent Spirit of God made known to us in Jesus, it’s a belief that despite all evidence to the contrary there is a powerful life force lifting us and all creation up, giving us hope, giving us peace and helping us embrace change. Jesus says to us in the resurrection, just as Ruby does, just as this little church does “I am still here.” Despite all the challenges, pain, sadness, betrayal and disappointment of life, the Risen Christ persistently and insistently clearly and deliberately says again and again “I am still here.”
Today in addition to celebrating the inspiring and long life of Ruby McDowell, this little church --- aka the little church that could --- from that famous old children’s book called “the little engine that could,” welcomes into the household of God Lukas, baptizing him in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Lukas and his family are communicating something profound to us and to God --- they are saying with clarity and commitment ---- we love, we trust, we believe in that persistent and insistent life force --- we love, we trust, we believe that sharing our lives with the wider community and wisdom of the church is a gift worth giving --- this family is saying something profound to us St. Cyprian’s, their saying we’re drawn to you, we feel a connection with your story and we see not only that you are still here, but that the Spirit of resurrection is overflowing, is spilling out of our doors and down the street. Lukas will one day hear the story of his baptism, he may even remember it, wherever he may be and he will learn about Ruby McDowell about the warmth and love of this little church that could, and this community will be part of his story and part of his own Easter proclamation “Alleluia Christ is Risen.”
The gospel this morning is one of my favorite stories in the entire New Testament, I love the image of Jesus making his disciples breakfast on the seashore. Now, the gospel tells us this is the third time Jesus has appeared to the disciples --- there’s a lot we could explore in this story , lots of questions we could ask like “why do the disciples go back to their fishing boats in Galilee?” and “what about that miraculous catch of fish?” but for today lets just appreciate how this story insists that we be prepared to run into Jesus anywhere and everywhere --- in the familiar and in the extraordinary. The disciples returned to Galilee a place they knew well, where they began there journey with Jesus and there he said to them “ I am still here.” but even in that well known place, the extraordinary happens in the catch of that giant net of fish so in the surprises, in unpredictable Jesus also says to us “I am still here.” At the end of the gospel, we here again that insistent and persistent Spirit of the Resurrection communicating to us, as Jesus speaks with Peter about his own death --- that even in the pain, struggle, confusion and terrifying perhaps most of all --- Jesus is still here.
Baptism is a powerful rite of initiation into the community of faith --- it’s a sacrament an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. Like all sacraments, its polyvalent --- has many meanings and values. On this day though, this Earth Sunday as we pour this water, say these prayers, and make these commitments let us keep in mind all the ways that water serves us --- all the ways that water communicates to us the power, love, and the enlivening Spirit of God. Listen closely to the prayer over the baptismal waters --- and consider water in your own life --- the water of showers, and baths, of pools and oceans, the water of rain and leaks, and garden hoses. Think of all the rain we have been having this spring, think of all the places that water goes, all the ways it gets in and under and around. The resurrection spirit of God --- is like that water --- it goes all over the place --- and affects everything. May the water we pour on this day, and all the water of our lives communicate to us as Ruby and this church do regularly and persistently that we are still here, that Christ is still here --- may the whole world see and know “Alleluia, Christ is risen.”