Sermon for Sunday, June 29th, 2014 || Third Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 8A || Jeremiah 29: 5-9; Psalm 89: 1-4, 15-18; Matthew 10: 40-42 || The Rev. Margot D. Critchfield
Our gospel this morning teaches us that whoever welcomes a follower of Jesus welcomes Jesus, and whoever welcomes Jesus, welcomes God.
Well, we welcomed 70 of Jesus’ youngest followers into our church this past week for Vacation Bible School, and I’m pretty sure all the adults who were here will back me up when I say that by welcoming all those little Jesus followers into our midst, we discovered what this gospel passage means. Because we couldn’t help but feel Jesus was with us; his love and joy and energy were all around us in the holy chaos of VBS. We learned first hand that by welcoming followers of Jesus—even, if not especially, his littlest ones—we got to welcome Jesus himself. Right here at St Stephen’s Cohasset. It was fantastic!
All week long, every time I turned around I heard the little voices of our campers– or the big voices of their crew leaders– joyfully shouting, “Even though you’re different, Jesus loves you!” or “Even when you’re afraid, Jesus loves you,” or most important of all, “Even though you do wrong, Jesus loves you!” Could there be a more important teaching for Jesus followers of all ages to learn?
And I love that our psalm this morning declares: “happy are the people are who know the festal shout.” You know, a festal shout is defined as “a loud shout or cheer of joy in response to the experience of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.” Now how perfect is that? There’s been some serious festal shouting going on around here all week: No matter what, Jesus loves you!
This morning, we’re going to welcome two more children into our church– even younger ones than we welcomed at VBS last week: Lilly and Louisa, beautiful baby girls, each not even a year old. Only this time, unlike last week, we’re going to welcome them not just into St. Stephen’s Church Cohasset, or into VBS (they’re a wee bit young for that) but into the larger church, into God’s whole church, the worldwide church of ALL Jesus followers, regardless of sect or denomination. And we’re going to welcome them in a very special and sacred way by baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and by marking them with holy oil as Jesus’ followers forever.
But before we do, this entire church is going to promise to do all in our power to support these little ones in their life in Christ. That’s a big promise. And I know sometimes people wonder why we take a vow like that in this day and age, when all too often we either don’t really know the one being baptized or we’re unlikely to know her all her life, given the way people move around in today’s world. So how can we take a vow to do all in our power to support Lilly and Louisa in their lives in Christ, when they don’t even live in Cohasset?
Well, this takes us back to our gospel for this morning. Just as we welcome Jesus by welcoming these little ones that belong to him, there’s a very real sense in which we represent his entire church when we promise to support them in their Christian journey. And there’s an equally real sense in which Lilly and Louisa represent for us every potential Jesus follower in God’s kingdom. By welcoming them, we welcome all.
That welcome, and the promise that accompanies it, bind us together in the mystical Body of Christ that is God’s church. That welcome, and the promise that accompanies it, are outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace. That welcome, and the promise that accompanies it, tells the whole wide world what every child here last week learned, and what each of us so desperately needs to remember: That no matter what, Jesus loves you! Amen.