April 29, 2018 + Easter 5B
Acts 8:26-40; John 15:1-8
A few summers ago, I had one of the best Fourth of July celebrations I can remember. I was back home in Santa Cruz visiting family. The day started off rather slowly. I really had no plans, other than just staying home and relaxing, enjoying a quiet vacation, but my brother kept inviting me to go to a party with him. He and his family, and his friends, and their families were all going to get together for a pool party. Now I knew a couple of his friends, but I didn’t know them all, and I had never been with their families; and quite frankly hanging around a pool with lots of kids playing in the water and making conversation with some people I didn’t even know, did not sound like something I wanted to do. But my brother was persuasive, and the party was just down the street, so I went.
As we walked into the pool area, I saw a few familiar faces, and lots of kids playing in the water, and one of my brother’s friends, the host of the party, greeted me warmly and handed me a beverage. So far so good! And then he asked me a strange question, “What does it take to do a baptism?” Unfortunately, that’s what happens when people find out you’re a pastor, there’s no normal conversation, instead of talking about the sports or weather you get asked religious questions, they want your opinion on something that’s happening or not happening at their church, of they just want to share an old Sunday School story. You get used to it but sometimes it’s just a little annoying to always have to have that conversation. So, with a rather flippant attitude I replied to his question regarding what it takes to do a baptism with a simple response, “Water!” And then I tried to move on. But a few minutes later he asked again, and so this time I gave him a more detailed theological answer and it seemed to satisfy him, and we moved on.
Well it turns out we were not moving on yet, because maybe a half hour later he came up to me and handed me another beverage and pointed out to a boy in the swimming pool. “Do you see that boy, his brother and sister are baptized but he’s not, and he knows it.” “What would it take to baptize him?”
Some more time passed by and suddenly the child’s Mom comes up to me and asks about getting her son baptized. “What would it take?” “Water!”
And this is where it gets really fuzzy. Suddenly there’s a frenzy of activity around the pool, parents are gathering up their children, people are dragging chairs over and lining them up. And before I know it the once loud and chaotic pool party has been transformed into a holy place. The water in the pool had been cleared of toys and was beginning to still, and in front of me there was 8 children sitting quietly and attentively in a line, and behind them were their parents and friends, sitting in lawn chairs; and they were all looking to me.
It was all very surreal, I just kind of stood there in amazement, and then thankfully my brother jump-started everything. He had went in the house and found a guitar, and there he was, handing me this guitar, taking my beverage from me, and saying, “Sing the baptism song!”
So I sang “One More Life”
One more life, A bright shining light
One more hope, That the world will be all right
You're a miracle child, Love made alive
Water falls from heaven, as God says you're mine
God says you're mine
One more heart, Begun by You
One more soul, And, hey all things are new
And soon you'll know your name, Love's made its claim
Heaven will be calling you, And you'll never be the same
You'll never be the same
And you'll never be alone, When you feel lonely
You'll always be loved, Yeah, you're part of a family
Something's happened today, That can never fade away
When God comes down from heaven, He's here to stay
Here to stay
In one more life, One more life,
One more life, One more life
You're a miracle child
Love made alive
Water falls from heaven
God says you're mine
God says you're mine
The young boy then kneeled at the edge of the pool, and I knelt down beside him, and I lifted the water up and out of the pool, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” And I announced that he was a beloved child of God, that this beloved identity in Christ would last forever, and that it would see him through his whole and wonderful life. And I charged all those in attendance to be his God Parents, his God brothers and sisters, and to always remind one another that we are loved, and that such love means everything. And we all seemed to bask in the moment, a moment of true freedom at a Fourth of July pool party. And then the music started up, the kids were back in the pool, and my brother’s friend who started the whole thing brought be a beverage and said, “Thanks.”
So why do I tell you this story?
Well first of all, it’s a cool story. I have a feeling it will always be my favorite Fourth of July story and my favorite baptism story. And I love the way it unknowingly parallels the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch’s baptism in this week’s appointed reading from the lectionary.
And second of all it speaks to how God acts in this world. How God can turn ordinary events into holy moments, how ordinary water becomes holy water, how a swimming pool becomes a sanctuary for the living God. The host with lots of questions becomes the vessel of the Holy Spirit, the hesitant guest becomes the presiding minister, and a child who only knows that he was not baptized, suddenly becomes known as a beloved child of God.
Which is the last reason I tell the story because how often do we forget that we are the beloved children of God? How often have we let the fear and the anxiety of life creep into our hearts and replace the hope, peace and love that God has placed there? How often do we replace the freedom of unconditional love with the bondage of fear and judgment? How often do we forget that all it takes is some water to bring us back home to the love of God in Christ Jesus?
As you leave the sanctuary this morning, the font is awaiting you, it’s filled with water waiting to remind you of all these things. So, take a moment and dip your fingers into those waters, and be reminded that you are nothing less than the beloved child of God! Amen.
1 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 2 He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3 You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.
26 Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." (This is a wilderness road.) 27 So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, "Go over to this chariot and join it." 30 So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?" 31 He replied, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. 32 Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: "Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. 33 In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth." 34 The eunuch asked Philip, "About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?" 35 Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. 36 As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, "Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?" 37 38 He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.