Friday, March 28, 2008
baptism and birthdays
On Easter Sunday, Vanessa was baptized. Following is the text of the teaching I gave prior to her baptism.
I hope you enjoy it.
Baptism and Birthdays
a sermon by Troy Cady
Today is Sunday, March 23, 2008. March 23rd is a very special day. It’s your birthday. On this day, 31 years ago, you were born.
Because of that, today is a day of celebration. It is a day of gladness, a day to thank God for the gift of your life.
There are days of mourning and sadness, but today is not one of those days. There are days when it is more fitting for us to be silent and serious, but today is not one of those days. Today is a day to rejoice, to smile, to clap and dance. Today marks the day of your birth.
Today is Sunday, March 23, 2008. On this day we also remember that the Lord Jesus rose from the dead. In the words of the apostle Paul, this makes him “the firstborn from among the dead”, because early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, the Lord Jesus emerged from the earth’s womb, to bring the hope of a newborn, the possibility of a new kind of life, a life that never dies, a life that never fades, an eternal kind of life. So, today, we celebrate the life of Jesus, the “firstborn from among the dead.” Today is truly a very special birthday.
Listen now to the story:
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!"
So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.
Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
They asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?"
"They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they have put him." At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
"Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?"
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him."
Jesus said to her, "Mary."
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).
[Then] Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" (from John 20)
Some days are different than other days. Some days are special. Not all special days are happy, however. This month, for example, Spain remembered a very special day: 11-M. 11-M is a special day, but it is not a happy day.
Typically, birthdays are both special and happy. They are days when loved ones gather to celebrate a life. Because of that, however, they can also be days that are tinged with sadness, especially if a certain loved one is not present.
No doubt, on this day, Vanessa, you have already thought of your father. And, though your father is here in spirit, I would not fault you for missing him, all the same.
Like Mary Magdalene, you may be thinking, “My father has been taken away.” Like Mary Magdalene, you are searching for something, a sign of life among the tombs.
Vanessa, you are like Mary Magdalene. She was forgiven much, and so are you. Her life was changed by Jesus, and so has yours been. Like Mary Magdalene you are loved much by Jesus. And like Mary Magdalene, Jesus has taught you to love him and others much. In short, your life has been rescued by Jesus. He has given you a crown of beauty instead of ashes, just like Mary Magdalene.
But like Mary, today there may be a part of you that weeps, a part of you that feels the absence of someone you love.
In that case, Jesus says to you, like he said to Mary: “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
And, as much as you love your father, as special as he is to you, it’s as if you can hear his voice saying, along with Jesus’: “Daughter, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
You may not have an immediate answer to that. So, you pause in silence, thinking.
And, in that silence, you hear the answer: “Jesus. It is Jesus you are looking for.”
But you are unsure, “Is that the voice of my father speaking? Or is that the voice of Jesus, the gardener?”
That’s when you realize: “It makes little difference. All that matters now is the answer to the question. Jesus. Jesus is the one I am looking for. Jesus is all that matters.”
And, just as you realize that, you hear the voice of Jesus, (unmistakable now: it is the voice of Jesus—without a doubt) the one voice that matters above all others, the one voice that is even more important than your father’s. It is the voice of Jesus, saying to you: “Vanessa”. His voice is calling you, comforting you, smiling. His voice is alive. And it calls you by name, singling you out for love.
It’s good to know that Jesus calls us each by name. On that special birthday about 2,000 years ago Jesus spoke the word “Mary” because it was Mary searching for him. And, on this special birthday he speaks your name (“Vanessa”) because it is you he is calling, it is you he loves, it is you he wants. And that is all you need to hear, just your name, spoken by Jesus in love and forgiveness, hope and promise: “Vanessa.”
As you go under the water and come up out of the water, Jesus will be there, speaking your name, even as he spoke Mary’s name after he went into the grave and came up out of it. Like a parent when a new child is born, it is as if he gives you your name that day. Yes, you’ve had your name your whole life, but this is the day when Jesus, the one who never leaves you, gives you your name again on the day of your new birth. That’s why I say that this day, the day of your baptism, Jesus is here, speaking your name anew, as if he is naming you on the day of your new birth.
I’m not just making this up, by the way. Speaking of baptism, a man named Irenaeus that lived in the second century says this: “That one moment was your death and your birth; that saving water was both your grave and your mother.”
As you go under the water, you signify a death to sin. As you come up out of the water, you signify the resurrection of Christ, a resurrection to a new life in Christ. A new birth.
So, today is Sunday, March 23, 2008. And March 23rd is a very special day, doubly so. It’s your new birthday. On this day we will always remember: you were born to a new life, a life in Jesus.
Because of that, today is a day of celebration. It is a day of gladness, a day to thank God for the gift of new life in Jesus.
Yes, there are days of mourning and sadness, but today is not one of those days. There are days when it is more fitting for us to be silent and serious, but today is not one of those days. Today is a day to rejoice, to smile, to clap and dance and party. Today marks the day of your birth.