Sermon from the 6th Sunday of Easter + Baptism of Leo Samuel

Pastor Sergio Rodriguez
6th Sunday of Easter. 5.22.2022. Baptism of Leo Samuel.
“Mark my Words: the waters of God’s love”
“we will come to them and make our home with them (Jn 14:32).”

May the light of your face shine upon us, God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia! We have certainly been witnesses of “Lydia-moments” as of late Acts 16:14-15) Like Lydia’s family, Leo Samuel Adams has joined the baptized household of faith (Acts 16:15b), being born anew by water and the Spirit. Like Lydia herself, as I shared with our siblings at Saint James Lutheran Church last week, the Latina women at our retreat experienced the blessing of “the Lord opening their to listen eagerly (Acts 16:14),” about the yoke Jesus gives to us who are weary. What a spontaneous, spirit-fulled time it was! We saw how the Spirit caused our hearts and listening hears embody Jesus’ words: “just as I have loved you, you also should love one another (Jn 13:34b).” The Spirit made known to us a love which is timely, tested, and transformative. This is a love that does not give us answers to the pressing questions of our lives but rather invites us to continually ask questions; being led by the advocate. For we know that God is love (1 Jn 4) who sent his Son, who in turned showed us that “no one has greater than love this, than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (Jn 15:13).” This is the kind of love that we need during every stage of our lives. Leo Samuel has just started. Our sister, Kate Paxton, basks in the eternal question that is divine love in its majesty.

We see this love promise to the disciples, “my peace, I give to you. The Holy Spirit will remind you of all that I said to you.” The disciples like us are deeply troubled with the deaden storms all around us; be it impeding recession, changes to the law of the land, unresolved grief, or changes all around. Judas (not Iscariot) says out loud what we all ask of divine love: “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world (Jn 14:22)?” The world has need of this love. We know that our baptism, gatherings, or belongs shall free us from tumult or unanswered questions. What then can water do for us and for our neighbor? I think that Rev. Chas Howard of the University of Pennsylvania said this best about this water: “A reminder [not a medicine that gives us a cure]. A mark. So that I never forget who I am and whose I am.” In the sermon, “Mark my Words: the waters of God’s love,” shows us that Jesus’ words are a mark of divine love upon our hearts. The Spirit makes this mark alive for us. And so makes us alive for others.

Mark my Words: Spirit Makes us Alive

A cloud of unknowing surrounded the disciples, or rather surrounds the entirety of John’s Gospel. Jesus announced, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me (Jn 13:21).” Peter would deny him. They basically were in a maelstrom of sin, death, and sorrow. They were troubled to their very core with so many questions: “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way? Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world? What does he mean by saying to us, A little While, and you will no longer see me, and against a little while, and you will see me?” In essence, they were struggling to see how Jesus’ words that we are to have life and life in abundance made sense to them in their struggle. Jesus does not really answer them clearly. Rather, Jesus’ first words to his disciples after announcing Peter’s betrayal is liken to this: “Trust in God and stay with me even though the storms of this time are surging all around us [paraphrase Jn 14:1]. Words will not make sense now but I am going to prepare a place for you so that you can continually know deeper mysteries.”

Although we know the deeper mystery that Jesus Christ is the Word of God dwelling among us in our human condition, the disciples had not reached that understanding of faith. They only caught a glimpse of this through this cloud of unknowing: “the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me (Jn 14:10).” They had seen this word before in action. This word made water into wine (2:1-11), healed the poor (5:1-15), the blind (9:1-1-7), and the powerful (4:46-54), fed five thousand people (6:5-14), walked upon water (6:16-21), raised Lazarus from the dead (Jn 11:1-45.) Judas had known this personally, but still, he asked, “Lord I know these life-giving words. How shall the rest of the world truly know the power of your word? How can the world know the answer to their pressing questions?”

Let us hear Mark Jesus’ words well: Jesus speaks about marking his words so that He and the Father would make their home within their hearts. But promises this indwelling love on the basis of a more elusive gift: The Spirit. The Advocate. Jesus will not leave them alone to mark words that have no enduring significance today. Rather, Jesus will send us the ever-present Spirit of love who, “will teach [us] everything, and remind [us] of all that [he] has said to you.” As to the question of how this affects Baptism, let us regard the words of Luther in the Small Catechism when says, “For without the Word of God, the water is plain water and not a baptism, but with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, grace-filled water of life and a “bath of the new birth in the Holy Spirit (SC 359.9-10). In other words, God the Spirit marks within us these life-giving words of Jesus. These words are not answers but a mark that reminds us that God dwells richly within our hearts through faith. No matter what questions we have, we have a love that has been timely, tested, and transforms us through the death and resurrection of Christ. Imagine this very baptismal presence. Never to be removed from us, no matter what sort of changes we face. Chas Howard understood the gift of water in this fashion: “Humans can hold a glass of water, but we cannot hold the ocean. I don’t want to. If I could, it would cease being an ocean.”

Alive for Others

If within this baptism we see an ocean that is God, dwelling within us in the Spirit, then we find all the riches of God’s gifts poured out upon us. Above all we find the gift of peace. The peace that Jesus imparts to his disciples, he now breathes upon us so that its very winds may blow this ship of faith safely through the storms of this time. This breath of peace is not simply so that our ship may sail its own course but so that we may mend the broken sails of this world in peace. : “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world (Jn 14:22)?” I do not simply read this in answer in our text. I have seen it and heard it; the God who dwells within you wants you to ask questions. God has made himself known today in Leo’s heart. The Infinite in the finite. He has marked his word within our hearts, his love has descended to make this world his peaceable home. Amen.