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May 14, 2023

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Acts 17:22-31

Psalm 66:8-20

1 Peter 3:13-22

John 14:15-21

Affirmation of Baptism Sunday

Alleluia Christ is Risen

Christ is Risen Indeed Alleluia!

Yes we are still in the Easter season

and today,

on a day when three of our young people

are publicly affirming their faith,

our lessons for today remind us

that God has already said yes to us,

and will continue saying yes,

no matter what happens.

Throughout this Easter season

we’ve been reading in Acts

about the aftermath of the resurrection

and the development of the early church,

and it has become apparent,

especially in the last couple of weeks

that this following Jesus thing

is a commitment with consequences.

Already disciples have been arrested

and last week we heard how Stephen

was martyred for his faith.

Our Epistle readings have been from 1 Peter,

a letter written to a community

struggling with the ramifications of living in contrast

to the dominant culture around them,

a culture that doesn’t understand

the change in the way of life that comes

with conversion to the Way of Jesus,

and we know what happens

when people don’t understand something,

often they become afraid of it

and try to push back against it

to make it fall into line

with what they do understand,

and this pushback leads to a certain amount of suffering

which is why the author writes: “But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame.”

the author goes on to remind the believers

that Christ also suffered,

for our sake,

to bring us to God,

and that we are brought to God through baptism,

saved through water

“not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God…”

In the waters of baptism

we are adopted by God

and joined to Christ’s death and resurrection

so that when God looks at us

God sees Christ.

All this is done by the grace of God,

it is a free gift,

a gift that we accept by faith,

trusting in the promises of God.

We are baptized,

God has acted,

we trust God,

simple yes?

And difficult

because with this adoption by God

come certain expectations,

expectations of a transformed life,

as parents and sponsors promise at baptism,

as our confirmands take responsibility for themselves today

we are to live among God’s faithful people,

to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper,

to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed,

to serve all people following the example of Jesus,

and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.

Indeed Jesus in our gospel tells the disciples

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Which makes sense

But when I read this

my contrarian brain immediately reminds me

of all the times I have not kept Jesus’ commandments,

and by Jesus’ definition not loved him,

and from there it’s a pretty short leap

to wondering if it’s reciprocal,

if in those moments I don’t love Jesus

does that mean Jesus doesn’t love me?

No, not at all.

God’s love is not dependent upon our actions.

This is the essence of the gift of baptism,

that God is the one doing the acting

and nothing, not even ourselves *(If we refuse to acknowledge God then we cut ourselves off from God’s love but God doesn’t stop loving us).

can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

The baptismal relationship is like that of a mother and child,

and sometimes the child gets frustrated and upset,

and lashes out saying “I hate you!”

to which the mother responds “I know, and I still love you.”

Even when we try to push God away

God still loves us

and God promises to be with us,

indeed God,

creator of the universe

is as close to us as our own breath,

as Paul pointed out to the Athenians in our first reading,

even for those who are searching for God,

God is not far off “For in him we live and move and have our being”

The difference between our God

and all those gods that the Athenians had built temples to

is that God’s love and good favor

doesn’t depend on our actions,

and in fact, out of love

our God works for our good

even before we realize it.

God is with us,

even and especially in the struggles,

and though it is sometimes hard to sense the presence of God,

God is right there beside us,

Jesus promised the disciples

“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate, to be with you forever.”

Later he puts it plainly “I will not leave you orphaned”

we belong to God

and God will not abandon that which has been claimed as God’s.

We are God’s,

this is what we celebrate in Baptism,

and in affirmation of baptism.

Confirmands as you affirm your faith today,

as you say ‘yes’ to God,

as you promise to continue living a life of faith

with all the responsibilities, challenges, and benefits

that come with such a life

remember this:

God has already said ‘yes’ to you

and God will continue to say ‘yes’

and remain with you wherever life takes you. Amen

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