Hosea 5: 15- 6:6
MATTHEW 9: 9-13 & 18-26

June 11, 2023

It is such a wonderful day when we witness the baptism of children!! Church the possibilities for the future are right before us as we celebrate the fact that parents find value in Holy Baptism … one of the Sacraments of the Christian church.

Imagine for a moment what your parents were thinking on the day of your baptism … how excited they were for you and your future walk in faith. Baptism itself, in a way, is how Christian families reach out to God and to their churches for the future of their children. Starting ‘a connect the dot’ life process where baptism leads to the discovery of God’s love through Jesus Christ. Where learning the truths of faith include all those wonderful Bible stories we treasure so much … Joshua and Jericho … Jonah’s faith … Esther’s story … David selected to be King of Israel … that amazing technicolor coat that turned Joseph’s story of faith into a Broadway musical … the promise of God to Abraham … the parting of the Red Sea … Shadrach, Meschach, Abednego and the fourth person in that fiery furnace …. Ruth and Naomi … the women discovering that HE IS RISEN <<He is Risen Indeed>> … Saul’s conversion to Paul … Pentecost’s energetic birth of the church … and of course all of the many historical events related to Jesus’ presence on earth from His birth in the manger to His Ascension to heaven from the Mount of Olives where Jesus instructed those who believe in Him to share the story … to provide hope for the future for all humans.

Friends, can you imagine the faith possibilities that lie ahead today for Billie Jean and Louis? How with your help, their family’s commitment, and the Holy Spirit’s guidance these two little ones have an amazing potential future in front of them … a future with hope … a future where God’s love through Jesus Christ will bless them and the Holy Spirit guide them. The possibilities of children … the possibilities of faith. Of our faith!

Ahh … these waters. Baptism water … or as one might say on reflecting HOLY WATER. Transformative … powerful … simplistic … a reminder … a teaching moment … that you and I have not lost our future possibilities in faith. These waters friends are a reminder of a commitment that perhaps your parents made for you … or you made for yourself … some of you, like me, may have even returned to the waters of your baptism for a renewal of a commitment to a future of hope with God. I did as a teenager and again just a few years ago as a pastor when I went under the waters one more time.

The prophet Jeremiah shares God’s promise … The Lord God declares, “I will be the God of all the families and they will ALL be my people. I have loved you with a love that lasts forever. And, so with unfailing love I have drawn you to myself. Again, you will play your tambourines and dance with joy.’

Ah, joy … now I don’t dance very well but I think I do joy with the best of them because I “rejoice in the Lord always …” “Joy to the world the Lord has come; let earth receive its king.” I don’t know about you but my Lord has come into my life even after some turbulent times … some moments when it would be easy to leave God behind.

You see there is a story of our faith life potential that all too often is cut off as if someone reaches to turn the spigot of flowing water to the point of not even an occasional dripping. Sometimes families allow the joy-filled potential of faith to end with baptism … sometimes families rush to clog the fountain of their children’s faith life with stuff that matters to the world but not to God’s priorities … and truthfully sometimes as we enter into or begin to journey through our adult years … we ourselves are the ones who let the waters of our baptism dry up sometimes blaming others or events but we still make that active choice … and we wonder where the people are in churches around the world … we wonder how divisive voices have power but that universal love is not thriving … why humans attack one another rather than share hugs.

The prophet Hosea has a suggestion that I think is one we should focus in on today because truthfully we can still reach out for our future as a future with God in faith … our past lives, our past actions, and anything that we once were has already been recorded into the history books of our lives. Our faith actions or faith inactions from the moment that baptism waters splashed onto our foreheads until this moment in time on Sunday June 11th in the year 2023 are already over with. If you crossed the road to embrace and care for the hurting in this world as Jesus taught … well, you learned your faith lessons well. If you have chosen to hide Jesus in your closet … well, that right now is also mere history because each of us beginning in this moment have the opportunity to reach out for our futures with God … through our faith or perhaps a renewal of our faith … taking the baptism waters as our refreshing source of energy whether we have hours left in our journeys or decades … “COME LET’s RETURN TO THE LORD!

Yes, Hosea was calling on people who had been beaten down and exiled … who were complicit with the near extinguishing of the worshiping of God … but Hosea was inspired by God to share the true message of God … did you hear birds singing this morning church? Were you amongst those smiling as I baptized these two children and did you sense God in the moment; in your very soul?

Hosea’s reminder is one that I will gladly preach from any pulpit or field that I stand in … “Let’s press on in life friends … knowing that the Lord God will be with us just as certain as the dawn … that God will come to refresh our spirits just like the showers that Spring rains give the earth to drink!” And, Jeremiah tells us to “Sing joyfully, to raise our voices with praise and yes, to CALL OUT that the Lord God has SAVED God’s people.” And, guess what … we are those people God’s message is for. In the year 2023 … those expectations are still there and our potential is just as great as those people of faith who heard the prophet’s sermons.

You and I … are the people God wants to save … You and I are the people God wants to sing joyfully, to raise our voices in praise and to call out that the Lord God has SAVED God’s people but so are those folks in Camden and Philadelphia … they are the people God wants to save and wants to hear their joyful singing … the people of Africa, New Zealand, China, and all those folks in Latin America … every last human … no rejection by God because of who any person is … God does not say any person cannot be who they were created as in order to be saved … no denial of God’s love for any human even when powerful humans try to divide us and separate society by saying that not everyone can be rescued … WE … and THEY, the humans of the world … ALL of THEM … are loved by God in these moments of the year 2023 and friends shouldn’t our present and our future be one where we sing out with joy just as God has taught? … Shouldn’t our times be times when we praise God with exuberance … and we when actually start celebrating our faith by sharing the truths of God that began in the simplicity of our baptisms?

Shouldn’t we? “THERE’s HOPE for your future declares the Lord!” Jeremiah says that God asks us to “Set up markers, put up signs, and to think about the road you have traveled and the path you have taken.” And, I would add … consider dear friends … the road you are about to enter today after witnessing two baptisms here at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, a church where ALL of God’s people are ALWAYS WELCOME to worship, to become active members, and then to take that joy into the world and tell the story of Jesus you find here.

We heard in our Gospel lesson … that Jesus eats with the tax collectors and the sinners. Jesus in Matthew shares God’s truth … God is not looking for sacrifices. Hosea teaches, the Lord God “desires faithful love and the knowledge of God instead of burned offerings.” Jesus teaches, “I want mercy and not sacrifice.” The prophet Micah teaches that the Lord God requires humans to “do justice, show loving mercy for all and walk humbly with God.”

And, today we heard the history of the suffering woman so desperate for Jesus Christ that all she wanted was to touch Jesus’ robe … she knew there was healing through Him … that there was hope waiting for her. How desperate are you today for Jesus? Did today’s baptism refresh your faith urgency in the moment … did you sense an urge of the Holy Spirit to be more connected in your faith … are you like me and in need of the healing power of Christ? The woman touched there mere hem of Jesus robe and He turned and saw her, “BE ENCOURAGED … be encouraged … your faith has healed you.”

On Friday evening …. Francis Jabathy who usually sits over in the cheap seats with his friend John married Shaniqua Biles before God, family and friends. You walk into their home and you will see Scripture verses on the walls …. They are moving into a new future as husband and wife with God as their companion. Today, Billie Jean and Louis felt the waters of baptism; you were witnesses making a commitment to the family and to these children to care for them … do you know where the children we baptized last year are or 5 years ago or 10 years go when you made a similar commitment?

And, most importantly friends … today – there is you and there is me. We face an unknown future … what we anticipate or expect to happen over the coming days, weeks and months may go our way or may turn out totally unexpectedly from our plans.

But the Lord God has a plan if we connect with God … if we commit to God … if we reach out into our future including God … God’s plan is a “plan to give each of us hope and a future in faith.” But we all too often cut off that Scripture reading right there but what follows is our commitment The Lord says, “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me WHEN YOU SEEK ME with ALL of your heart. I will be found by You, declares the Lord.”

So friends, SEEK GOD … CONNECT with GOD … God doesn’t make it hard we only have to believe … we just need to offer God our faithful love and then focus in on our gaining knowledge of God “Listen to the Lord’s Word. Get Ready! Sing joyfully! Come shouting with joy! Dance with joy!! Raise your voices with praise!! Set up markers and put up signs!!”

Friends, let’s follow the prophet’s admonition as we head into the future, COME LET’s RETURN to the LORD knowing that the Lord God, Creator of the Universe, is ready “to be our God so that we can be God’s people and God will put God’s instructions on our hearts.” It’s what we need for the future, our future …. REJOICE in the LORD ALWAYS and make sure God is there with you step by step and day by day your and my future needs that connection.


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