This community of St. Martin’s is very special—I suspect that all church communities think they are special, but this one truly is…and Bob and I have been here long enough to be absolutely certain of it. We were welcomed with open arms and loving hearts back in 1983. Our son, Chris, was just 2. This faithful community prayed for healing and eventually prayed for Chris’ younger sister, Katy, to be born. When Katy arrived in 1986, we made plans for a visit to Albuquerque, where both sets of grandparents resided, her aunt was a priest there and her maternal grandfather was serving as bishop. That seemed like sufficient personnel to get a little baby baptized. When we presented our plans to
Katy’s prospective fleet of godparents, we were met with a most interesting response from one of the godmothers. Sharon said, “well then, Phyllis, all of us from St. Martin’s will just pack up bologna sandwiches and get in my white van and go with you to Albuquerque”. Suddenly, like the blinding light on the road to Damascus, it all made sense! Katy’s community was here in Texas, not in New Mexico. St. Martin’s would be the place for her baptism and friends and family…even clergy family, could come join us for the service, which they did. Community—it was all about community. Duh, Phyllis.
Here we are today, the faithful community we are, gathered for baptism (later) and for Eucharist. Faithfully and together.
St. Paul offers us an interesting message directed to his friends, the Corinthians – He starts with a rather glowing thanksgiving for the people of this community in Corinth. He offers thanksgiving for the grace of God that has been given to them in Christ Jesus, and that they have been enriched in him in every way—like speech and knowledge… Now, remember these are folks well known for a pretty significant amount of fussing and fighting. Previously, they wanted to know whose spiritual gifts were the best and at one point they also had to be reminded that they were all vital parts of the body and were called to work together. And here is Paul with these uplifting words about them? When I was working full time, such commentary came under the category of “affirm that which you can”. Set the bar high. St. Paul calls us, like the Corinthians, to be a different kind of community, one that, because of God’s grace, undercuts divisions and separations that exist in the world. We are the community of faith with and for little Corey as we welcome him into the household of God. We are the community that makes bologna sandwiches and takes them on the road, if that is where we need to be.
My cousin had her second cataract procedure this week. When I took her home, although still a bit loopy from the “I don’t care” drugs, she asked me, as she got out of the car, what I was doing for the rest of the day. I told her about the upcoming sermon and the opportunity to tie together the first Sunday of Advent and Baptism. She said “I’ll think about that”. Two hours later, a one-word text from my cousin beeped in. It said “Beginnings”. Well, there it was! Both Advent I, the beginning of our new liturgical year, (which is B for us nerds!) and the beginning of Corey’s Christian life as he becomes a member of the Church- capital “C” and the community of St. Martin’s.
The season of Advent reminds us that everything Jesus said and did during his earthly life remains relevant, life-giving and essential in our lives today and until “Christ comes again”. And we are reminded that we do not know when that might be… We are called to always live lives of justice and righteousness. We are called to not just say or repeat the baptismal covenant, but to live those vows everywhere, all the time. Our lives should reflect the life of the one whose birth we celebrate at Christmas.
It is this life of justice and righteousness that little Corey is invited into through baptism. He is baptized into both Jesus’ death and into his life. In baptism Corey dies to all that Christ defeated on the cross: violence and oppression and hatred and darkness and death. He is reborn to all that resurrection brings to birth: peace and justice and love and light and life. We make the vows on Corey’s behalf today and along with his parents and godparents, we promise to teach him and show him the ways of Christ so that he knows, without any doubt, the way of hope, peace, joy and love.
Baptism, like Advent, reminds us of what it means to be a Christian. We promise that, we too, will live out our baptism as a loving community in Christ: nurturing one another in faith, upholding one another in prayer and encouraging one another in service. We can do this. We do do this.
Today, Corey becomes a new creation and is welcomed into the church community, sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever. May we remember our own baptisms and the Advent lives of hope, peace, joy and love we are all called to live. AMEN.