Monday, March 02, 2015

God's Laughter: God's Tears

Abraham Laughed

Happy St. David's Day by the way to all my Welsh and Celtic friends.
As you and I take up our cross to follow Jesus each day, no doubt we know of the laughter and the tears that life brings us.

It is, of course, a great joy when a baby is born and for us today when a baby is baptized. I rejoice with you all today as you do with me at the baptism of Bryson Fredrick Scott. This is a day of great joy for the church and for God in heaven above. And while it is unusual for us to baptize folks in Lent, it will not surprise you to learn that I am doing something unusual.

We are told in our first lesson today that Abram was an old man when his first child was born. To tell you the truth the story, as the bible tells it, is quite a funny one.

When he is 99 years old, God renames Abram which means “honored father” in Hebrew and names him Abraham which means “honored father of many nations”. God also renames Sarai to Sarah for she shall be the honored and blessed mother to many nations.

Well Abram/Abraham took a good look at himself and then at Sarai/Sarah and it tickled him to consider this promise of God. After all how was he going to break this news to his wife? 

"Sarai/Sarah, it looks like were going to take a long walk, lets say about 500 miles to the land of Canaan. So I’m 99 years old! And so you’re and old woman too. Come with me to the land of Canaan.”

“Why?” she may have quite reasonably shot back at him. After all this kind of journey at that age requires a great deal of effort. 

Not to mention all the packing. Cindy and I have to pack the car every week to just to travel between Sandwich and Lynn, and the conversations between us are always a bit funny as we consider what to take and what not to take.

“So why are we going to the land of Canaan?” she may have asked, again quite reasonably.

Ah then comes the poetry the beautiful Hebrew poetry; 
“And look at the stars in the sky and count them too if you can;
“Look at the grains of sand on the earth and can them if you can;
“So shall our ancestors be!”

Sarai/Sarah may have been a practical woman capable of bursting the inflated notions of the old man, the noble dreamer.

“So who have you been talking to?” 

Abraham fell on his face and burst out laughing at that point as the scripture says ~Genesis 17:7

The Hebrew word laughter is “Yitzhak” or Isaac. And so the child born to him, his only child was Isaac. God tickles us with so much laughter and joy in life. 

To be sure, there are the dirty diapers, the sleepless nights, and the ear infections. But the joy and the antics of a child so often tickle us with laughter.

Please remember to treasure these moments and be watchful too because the Evil One always seeks someone to devour.

I’m not kidding. We hardly missed a Sunday with our children at church. I wanted them to have the advantages I had as a child. I wanted them to know that at the very center of our souls there is a living God who loves and cares for us in every way. 

We were fortunate because our children went off to college and have become very fruitful in their adulthood. One of our young men got in with a crowd for a while and it was touch and go with the drugs for a while. There was an unforgettable night where the threat of an overdose nearly took his life.

But my children knew of God. The one who creates us.
They knew of Jesus. The one who saves us.
They knew of the Holy Spirit. The one who is there with us in every breath we take.

And because they know of all this they also knew of the faith of Abraham and this is what is counted to us as righteousness. It is not a thing we achieve. It is a free gift of God. God knows it is not the messes we make but the way we care about one another that redeems so much of life.

There is great joy and even laughter in that gift.
Do not deny that gift to your children.

God is the beginning and the ending; the Alpha and the Omega.
The joy of it is today with this baptism.

But Wednesday morning I was at the grave of a soldier unknown to me or to the church. But he asked for an Episcopal service in his will and I gathered with a few family and friends on a lovely snow covered hillside at the National Cemetery.

I said the ancient words “I am the Resurrection and I am the Life”. I read the burial office of the church. A soldier played the plaintive tones of taps. And a grateful nation gave the soldier’s son a flag.

God is there in the beginning with the child.
God is there for the old man and woman who bring that child into the world.
And then God is there for the old soldier who just seems to fade away.

Harder to take was the news that a friend died yesterday. Mark had been sick for only a short time and we knew it was serious when he was admitted to ICU yesterday, but we had no idea that it would come to this. I saw the news on Facebook. What is there to say?

I called his wife Nancy. Her voice had the sound of shock in it. I said I did not want to burden her with yet another phone call, but she said that a call from me would never be a burden.

She was not ready for this. She has no idea how to be a widow. All this had happened much too soon.

And here it is again. Like with my dad at Christmas so many years ago, like the time with my beloved grandmother at Thanksgiving, like the hundreds of times as a parish priest we are reminded that all our days are numbered. Then we are gathered to our ancestors and ultimately we are all gathered to You my God.

Yes to You. I am now talking directly to You. This wonderful and blessed child, the unknown soldier on the snow-covered hillside and my friend Mark. 

I call my blog Heaven and Earth and so it is. We know of earth all too well. We are rudely reminded of Earth day after day. 

But there are those who lay claim to Heaven as well. We lay claim to God’s Holy Word.
God’s Holy Word lays claim to us. 
And every week we gather to hear God’s Holy Word and then to embrace it in our Baptism. 

Mark embraced it.
Bryson embraces it today for the very first time in a very special way. 
How in the world can I understand the mystery of it all?
Obviously I cannot, but I can proclaim it. God’s mystery. The One who lays claim to us on Earth but not only there but in Heaven as well.

And so I am not here with you today to wonder about Heaven and Earth but to embrace them both as God seeks to embrace us all.

This is all I seek to do every day as God looks on. As You look on. And so let us take up our cross and follow Jesus.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Fr Paul

No comments: