My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God.
I speak to you in the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Mother to us all. Amen+
If you were here last week or if you followed the photos on Facebook, you know that we baptized six—SIX!—babies on All Saints’ Day!
It was glorious; one baby cuter than another. All a little surprised by the deluge of water, yet none of them put up a fuss, no one cried. It was a picture-perfect day —so much joy! But in the midst of all that joy, we did something radical. We asked those babies to take some very serious vows. Now, none of the babies was of an age to speak, but the parents and godparents took the vows for them. Then WE took a vow to do all in OUR power to support them in their life in Christ. We ALL renewed our baptismal covenant, remembering the promises we made or that were made for us in our own baptisms, all those years ago . . .
Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?
I renounce them.
Do your renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?
I renounce them.
Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your savior?
On and on we went, blithely making promises. Renounce evil? Sure! Promise to follow and obey Jesus as your Lord? Why not? And my favorite: Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love? I do.
I do. I do. I really, really do, especially when there are six beautiful, healthy, round-cheeked babies. I trust God’s grace and love when the church is packed, and the music is glorious, the decorations joyful, and the champagne is flowing.
100% trust in God’s grace and love.
But this vow we make to trust in God’s grace and love, well, what about on the other days? The hard days? When everything is going wrong? Do we trust God’s promises, then? Do we put all our trust in God even when everything is crummy?
In the past, I don’t know, 600 days of pandemic fear and isolation and exhaustion, we might not have felt a lot of trust in God’s grace and love. You might have times in your life—maybe even right now—when trusting in the promises of God doesn’t seem like such a hot idea, all baptismal vows aside.
I know there are times when those baptismal vows, the promises we make as we renew our baptismal covenant, to continue in the apostle’s teaching, the breaking of bread and the prayers, to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourself, well those vows, those promises, can ring a little . . . hollow. I fall short of the mark; I turn away from what I know can never be removed—my baptism, those waters, that bowl.
Fortunately, we have models of faithfulness to follow when we lose heart, models like Hannah. Hannah, unable to have children, heart-wrenching to anyone who desires a child, but in this culture dangerous. A woman without children was useless and, if widowed, at risk with no one to protect her.
Hannah faces her barrenness with sorrow as her husband’s other wife with many children lords it over her; as her husband seems unable to understand her distress, even as he dotes on her; as even the priest misunderstands her, accusing her of drunkenness as she prays in desperation—silently, but moving her lips—in the temple.
Hannah grieves her lack of children, offering prayers of lamentation and petition and oblation, begging for help and promising to give her child to God, but in the midst of all of that, she still puts her whole trust in God’s grace and love, believing that God will hear and respond to her plea.
Hannah is so trusting that she celebrates as soon as she returns from the Temple, even before she is pregnant. And after she gives birth, she offers a song, which we sang today. Hannah sings a song of reversal and hope, the precursor to that other amazing song, the Magnificat of Mary.
Hannah sings, “My heart exults in the Lord,” just as Mary sings, “My soul magnifies the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” And then Hannah says that in God, the bows of the mighty are broken and the weak empowered, the hungry are fed, the barren bear many, while the rich, the highborn, the arrogant, are brought low. Over 500 years later, Mary sings of similar happenings as if the world has already been made right: “He has cast down the mighty . . .and has lifted up the lowly,” she sings.
The amazing vision of a world of justice and love promised to us in scripture, the kingdom that is breaking in but is not yet, all of this is announced by Hannah and by Mary as if it has already happened. THAT is the kind of trust they have. It’s the kind of trust I have on my best days but can only long for on my worst.
Four weeks ago, while kicking off our Pledge Campaign, I talked about the wildness of God and reminded us of something well known here: God’s grace is wild, abundant, beyond our imagining, because, after all, it’s a river, not a pie.
And I suggested that pledging is a way to get in on that overflowing abundance, that by pledging I knowingly place myself into the hands of the living God, trusting in God’s grace and love. And I invited you to join in that adventure, participating in the wild joy of a life lived in faith where the answers aren’t always clear, but amazement is the order of the day.
Kind of like Hannah.
Kind of like Mary.
Big “Yeses” to the wild ride with God, trusting God to hold us through it.
I invited you to the adventure, and, oh, Dear Ones, did you ever respond!
You lived into the abundance, you are placing your trust in God’s grace and love. Our Pledge Co-Chairs Jack Garland and Katrina Kasten will share the good news later in the service, though I am DYING to spill all the news myself! Instead, I’m going to invite you to do one more thing, a ritual act to embody the pledges you’ve made or will make to this Body of Christ.
At the door this morning, you received a piece of paper and a pen. If you didn’t, raise your hand, and an usher will bring those to you. On the paper, this prompt: “With thanksgiving, I prayerfully commit . . .”
We invite you to finish that in any way that makes sense to you. You might write in your pledge.You might write about a way in which you will nurture one of the ministries here.You might write about tending to your own prayer life. There’s no wrong way to do this, and your name isn’t on it.
I’m going to give you a minute or so to fill this out. Then, at the offertory, before we begin singing the hymn, you are invited to place your commitment into the bowl which normally holds the waters in which we baptize, connecting our support of this place with our own baptism. So, take a few moments . . .
Thank you. Thank you for this and for all you do to keep saying “yes,” to placing your trust, again and again, in God . . .
Last week after we baptized all those beautiful babies, we lifted the babies high, high in the air, and I said, “Let us welcome the newly baptized!” You applauded and said, “We receive you into the household of God.”
We will place or commitments into the baptismal bowl because they are signs of our trust in God and because when we are baptized, we are welcomed into the household of God.
Dear Ones, look around: THIS is the household of God. Right here. This is where we nourish the body of Christ and its members; this is where each one of us is nurtured, too, where we live out our baptismal promises, then renew them when we’ve grown slack. HERE we are all mixed together like the waters from all over the world are mixed together. They become baptismal waters; we become the body of Christ.
In that water, we are given new life. In this body of Christ, we are encouraged in faith, learning how to love and be loved, learning to trust that the grace of God is always a river, never, ever a pie, there’s more than enough to go around, and when we trust that, well, amazement is the order of the day, and we are humbled and grateful and generous.
What grand adventure.