An outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual grace
Third Sunday of Easter
April 6, 2008
Third Sunday of Easter
April 6, 2008
Let us pray: Make us aware, O God, of your presence among us. Guide my words and use them. Amen.
Just in case you are wondering, I am not vying for the record of the longest reflection title in history. In fact, the reflection title is a dictionary definition. Iíll give you a moment to take a look at it, and see if you can figure out the word which it defines. If you need a hint, itís a word that appears twice elsewhere in the order of worship. Well, I wonít leave you in suspense any longer - the Oxford Concise Dictionary defines the word ďsacramentĒ as an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual grace.
Itís actually a very nice definition. Itís a sign we can see of something we canít see, but can definitely feel. Itís a wonderful conjunction that we are experiencing the sacraments of baptism and communion on this day, while at the same time reading about them in our scripture passages.
Peter spoke to the gathered people, telling them again the story of Jesus and what Jesus meant to them. As we heard, as one version puts it, ďabout three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up. They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.Ē There we have it - their baptism - a visible and outward sign of inward and spiritual grace, a grace which drew them to be in community with each other. I wonder if they could ever imagine that day, what would be happening this day, here in the north country, on a bright, but cool day in April when Sydney, Maisey and Hayden became part of that same community? For you see, baptism is not just an event that ties people together in community at one time - it is an event of community that extends through time - the time promised by parents, the time promised by congregation, and the time promised by God - as these three children grow in size, and grow in their understanding of the grace they hold within - the presence of God which is part of them, and beyond them.
It is our faith that they will discover that grace in many ways - hopefully as we fulfill the promises we made a few moments ago and in the covenant made with God. One of the things about grace is that we never know how it will touch lives. We need to be constantly aware of the ways in which God is present, and I assure you that you will be amazed, as will these three young people as they continue to be nurtured in this community.
I also know that in part that grace will also be discovered in some somewhat more predictable ways, and here I speak of the other sacrament we experience this morning. The travellers on the road to Emmaus experienced the grace when their travelling companion broke bread with them. The bread and wine which Jesus shared with his friends a last time before the events leading to his execution became for them an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. When you eat this bread, remember me, Jesus said. When you drink from this cup, remember me, Jesus repeated. And they did, perhaps not expecting to have the reminder so soon and so poignantly.
All of life can be sacramental - God is everywhere - all around and within. The outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace abound. But we have chosen these two - the sacrament of membership in the community and the sacrament of sharing a meal, as two particular ways in which we experience the love and care of God, the joy and warmth of community in Christ and with God. These are two windows through which we view the signs of Godís presence, and through which the light of being part of the community of Christ does shine.
God bless our eyes and ears to see and hear. God bless our hearts and minds to feel and know. Amen.