Saturday, 7 April 2012

Trembling, Bewildered and Afraid: a Short Sermon with Reference to Romans 6 and Mark 16—on the Occasion of Katherine and Claire Randle's Baptisms at the Easter Vigil

Mark 16:8 (NIV84) Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. 
They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. The tomb was empty and they didn’t know what to do about it. Their world had just been turned upside down—for the better they would soon find out—but right then? Trembling and bewildered. Fear. So much so that they ran.

I’m afraid that two thousand years of church has buried any trembling and astonishment, any fear, we might feel in what we celebrate tonight. O the Resurrection is amazing and joyful, but even that becomes routine if we’re not careful.

If we drill down into it, though, there’s really jeopardy, danger and death. Cruel slavery in Egypt. Misery. Passing throught the sea with a wall of water each side. Terror at having to leave home and go who-knows-where? Death and burial. Crucifixion. Sin, and not just matters of discourtesy and hurt feelings, but violent, bloody, torture, injustice and death on a grand scale.

And then, wonder of wonders, there’s also miraculous deliverance, a promised land and a resurrection on an even grander scale. Christ is Risen!! Alleluia!

So here we are to help Jesse and Janine bring Katherine and Claire from slavery to sin and death, out of “dead IN sin” into “dead TO sin”(Ro 6:11) and alive! “Living a new life! (Ro 6:4) United with Jesus in his resurrection (Ro 6:5). “Alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Ro 6:11).

What’s alive to God in Christ Jesus like? Jesus himself prayed, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” (John 17:24 NIV84) Alive to God in Jesus means being where he is, seeing his glory. That’s what he wants for us.

The transaction that will soon take place in this holy sacrament should cause a little trembling and astonishment. As Katherine and Claire's dad Jesse said about what we're doing tonight, "To be a part of something bigger and stronger than yourself." No kidding! We’re rolling the stones back from tombs that would otherwise imprison Katherine and Claire forever—all of us, in fact—if it were not for Jesus and his church. The Risen, loving, King Jesus provides The Way.

As the young man told the Mary’s at the tomb:
Mark 16:6 (NIV84) “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here.”
Tonight Janine and Jesse will commit themselves to showing Katherine and Claire how to look for Jesus of Nazareth and where to find him (Mk 16:6)—here in his church. They’re promising to nurture Katherine and Claire here, to pray and witness—set an example—so they will grow to be like Jesus. They will renounce everything opposed to Jesus, turn to him, accept him as Lord and Saviour, put their whole trust in his grace and love, promise to obey him as Lord. All so Katherine and Claire can get out of this alive.