GET IN THE STREAM
MARK 9: 30-37
September 23, 2018
Baptism … a joyous moment for families; a joyous moment church for the family of God because baptism marks the declaration of a connection between one individual or in our case today two individuals with the church of Jesus Christ. A public declaration of faith; of membership in the body of Christ; and a commitment of the church to be in relationship with those we witnessed entering the stream … sensing these baptismal waters … truly happy people. Today’s psalm is a reflection in my mind of the experience of baptism and a reminder to each of us who are people of faith of our calling … because we are called to get into the stream for Jesus Christ; for God the Creator … with the help of God’s incredible gift of the Holy Spirit.
Did you listen to the Scripture lesson? Did you hear the words from our Holy Book? “The truly happy person loves the Lord’s instructions! The truly happy person recites God’s instructions day and night! The truly happy person who doesn’t stand on the road with sinners nor sit with disrespectful people is like a tree replanted by streams of water bearing fruit at the right time.” Church are you in that refreshing stream this morning? Church have you stood up and left the disrespectful sitting and looking at you wondering why you don’t want to put others down with them? Are they wondering why you don’t join the mocking tones towards other human beings whom Jesus taught us to love with all that we have? All that we are?
This morning. … on this day of baptism church … as we enter the autumn of the season;; it is about time for us to be in the stream of life! It is time to be the ones who accept the message of Jesus for what it is and to live it fully!
A message designed to revolutionize the world not to ignore the harm occurring to others, not to deny that others were or are being harmed, not to reject those human beings who hear chants and read words from disrespectful people suggesting that they deserve rejection from a path of living life … The baptism stream, the baptism pond, the baptism waters were not for a moment in time; the waters were not for a brief second during the youngest time of life; they were not for the public showcasing in a special service but as I look at these two beautiful children and their family this morning I am reminded … Church, I have been reminded once again that you and I and every person of faith is in desperate need to feel the waters of God’s stream; a stream that can replant human beings to a place where life eternal exists; where the Light of Jesus Christ shines; and where God is pleased. Baptism waters are living waters unless we choose to dry them off until they are mere dust that the wind blows away. Church, when human beings who are baptized live each day reminded of those waters … when their life’s priority goes beyond their corner of the block and focuses in on eternity and the Creator’s call … then God is truly pleased!
Speaking of pleased … when the stream of faith; when the waters of God; when the truth of Jesus Christ touches someone in a way that they truly change and experience this deep down happiness that we know of as a personal faith thanks to the grace of God. When someone no longer feels the need to join with the sinners standing along the roadside to fit in with society. When a man, woman or child understands that God does not want God’s people; those true in faith; real believers to sit with those who are disrespectful of others … in fact, those who do are the wicked in God’s eyes who like dust will be blown away by the wind into destruction but my friends … the true GOOD NEWS; the reality of God’s love … when a human being makes the choice to join the forever living; becomes a follower of God’s Holy Light; and rejects wicked advice and doesn’t join with those who do evil … there is a celebration in heaven. Jesus reminded his followers and those who believed during His walk on earth that “the angels of God rejoice over one sinner who repents.” One person … changing their paths … the scoreboard in heaven lights up; fireworks explode; the music’s volume increases and the party begins over just one person … repenting; one person turning to God and saying their first priority each day is God’s not humankind’s vision of the world; the information source for life is not the drum beat of negative political campaigning nor chants of disrespect but the clear solid blessed WORD of GOD!
Well speaking of scoreboards … not about being pleased at an outcome but being pleased in the experience … most of you know that last week I was at the Buffalo Bills’ home opener. Those who follow the sport know that for the home crowd the outcome was far from what any of us hoped for during our tailgating conversations. My brother and I choose to not park in the stadium lot but in a private lot a short walk from the stadium. This requires us to walk through the woods … through nature … both on our way to the stadium and on our way back. Along the way there are a couple of streams we have to cross and one where at times the waters rise up has a small little bridge that helps people get to the other side. After walking in groups the sighting of the stream and the little bridge causes everyone to line up … one leader stepping onto the little bridge setting the example for the next person.
No, that water wasn’t about to sweep anyone away downstream … no one was going to be swallowed up in the depths of the stream desperately attempting to survive. But, one after another we reached the other side … what I found interesting as an unintended part of this photo was how the leaders took the group across the waters from a dark shadowy area into the bright light.
Do you know … that each of you; and me have the ability, the gifts, and the strength to lead another person out of darkness into the light of Jesus Christ? There is something in us … as people of faith who have rejected the world’s hate; who have embraced God’s love through Jesus Christ; and who have willingly, openly, and happily accepted God’s gift of the Holy Spirit that gives us the means to bring others to know our Savior?
It’s true … the primary reason people change their direction, their habits, and their lives is because of someone they know who has provided the example of a better way. It doesn’t take a university degree not a seminary education to share the story of faith … it doesn’t take the eloquence of a Broadway actor to speak of what God means to any of us … what matters most is that it is real. Friends, when your faith is in your heart … when your happiness is in the Lord … when you have rejected this world for the cause of God and Jesus Christ you have been given all that you need to help change the world.
No one in that line of folks walking through the woods last Sunday morning would have changed course to get wet if one person had started running down stream … we could see the light … we could hear the celebrations ahead. When you show someone the light of faith; not the headlines of negativity nor the failed examples of those whose humanity overcame their apparent faith walks … people need to see God in us and hear that God offers something much more than any human being or human collective can.
We need to start streaming people towards God … we need for them to experience and live the waters of baptism as they get into the Light.
The how to’s are many frankly. We have witnessed how a little child and bring an entire family into the life of a church of God.
But, I am afraid in this era of social media, immediacy, hunger for more, reduction in our perceptions of our time even though so many who claim to have no time are busily binge watching another Netflix series … I am afraid that we have reached a moment in time where even those who associate themselves with God are more likely to be pushing God aside so that their personal needs are taken care of.
Yesterday, at West Deptford Days I met a young man who told me how his once thriving church now is a mere shadow of what it once was. The youth no longer are there … adults have gone out the door … 21st century life wrapped up in personal desires rather than faith development making him sad but he won’t give up.
We held our Rally Day two weeks ago … again today our Sunday School teachers will be busy teaching. This week Bible studies start both here in person and streaming online offering you, your friends, and neighbors a chance to be in a class using your phone or tablet if it takes too much time to get to this building. In our neighborhoods there are people getting ready for today’s football games. There are people who because of the headlines or see churches not as places to worship or experience God but as buildings wrapped up in human weaknesses.
So, this morning we need to get back in the baptismal stream … we need to refresh ourselves with the waters that at one moment in our life represented our declarations that we didn’t want to be first but we wanted to be a servant of all.
And, as we soak in our remembrance of our baptism … as we remember our relationship with God and Jesus … we need to take the steps to grow strong, to be God’s representatives, to be the ones who refuse to stand with the sinners on the road unless we are teaching them about Jesus Christ, the ones who do not join with the disrespectful but instead declare our love for every single neighbor … every other person regardless of what they look like, sound like, what they believer or where they come from because we are the people of God who have heard Jesus declare again today that whoever we welcome its as if we are welcoming Jesus but when we reject any one … we are rejecting Jesus also.
The water is free … its there for all! God’s love is waiting … God’s grace is there from our first to last breath … are you ready to jump into the stream … are you going to be the one who this week leads someone into the Light causing a party to start up in heaven!
You can do it …. Young, old, or in between. Thank God for Jesus Christ! Thank God for the Holy Spirit; and thank God that we can feel the waters of baptism to reinvigorate our faith.
Watch a video of today’s worship service: