Sheepscott Community Church February 6, 2011
Mark 10: 13-16
Do This in Remembrance of Me
What a special day this is today, especially for Allison and Mary and their parents, but also for us who were invited to the party. Who would not feel renewed by seeing these two precious souls blessed with the water of life, which is the symbol God has provided for cleansing and renewal, for purification and promise.
Recall the wonderful story in Second Kings of Naaman the Syrian, commander of the king’s army, who is afflicted with leprosy. Naaman’s wife’s serving maid, a young captive from Israel, told her mistress that if Naaman would go to Elisha the prophet in Samaria, his leprosy would be cured. So Naaman went with his chariots and horses and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house, and Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”
But Naaman went away angry that the prophet did not come out and simply heal him by waving his hand over the afflicted areas. “Are not the rivers of Damascus better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” he asked, then turned, and went off in a rage. One of his attendants took issue with him, pointing out that if the prophet had asked him to do something extraordinary, he would have done it. How much more then should he follow the prophet’s instructions to wash and be cleansed. The attendant prevailed, and Naaman went down to the Jordan, dipped himself in the water seven times, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a newborn boy. A little humility there before God’s prophet, and so, before God.
Isn’t that a great story? And here this morning we have water from that same river, thanks to Daisy Radoulevitch who brought it home after she was there with her husband back in the ‘60s. We have used that water and water from the Sheepscot River to symbolize the baptism into Christ of these two little girls, and their baptism into the community of this church, where we are a spiritual extension of their own families. We as a household of faith have witnessed their baptism and we reach out to them in love in the name of Christ, who is the head of this household.
We will remember him and honor him as he instructed us to do, when we share the Lord’s Supper this morning. The form of that remembrance is bread and wine––for us here, grape juice, the same elements that Jesus used 2000 years ago. There are different ways of remembering others. This morning, as I have already pointed out, Mary Elyse was wearing the christening dress made by her great-great-grandmother, and worn by her great- grandmother Mary, for whom she is named today. In a very special way, that great-great-grandmother and great-grandmother are also here this morning because Jeff and Karen recognize the power of a symbol––the dress––to invoke meaning and memory. And I expect they also recognize the attendant mystery which we cannot finally explain, just how those women are here, but they are, even if only in the genes. We are, after all, an amalgam of what has gone before. The communion of saints cuts a wide swath.
Tony Kilburn showed me his watch last Sunday. He bought it on E-bay and it’s just like the one his father wore back in the ‘40s. The works had to be replaced, but now he has the working replica on his wrist. It’s a relic in a real way, an object that invokes the memory of a person and a time when that person was still here. I expect that every time he looks at that watch, he remembers his father.
If any of us look among our treasures at home, I would guess that we all have at least one piece of memorabilia––a few sketches, as I have, that my mother made when she was a teenager, my father’s signature in my baby book, which meant the world to me at one time, as he left this world early and too soon. All of us have and keep these remembrances. Why? Because they bring back to us those whom we have loved and still love and make them present to us in a unique way. But we have to be willing to bring our creative imaginations to this matter of remembrance, perhaps especially to this remembrance of the Lord’s Supper.
Allison and Mary were baptized with water from the Jordan River, half a world away, and with a history that reaches beyond the history of Jesus himself, and also with water from the Sheepscot River, which flows by our door, even now. We are about to remember the last supper, the meal Jesus shared with his apostles the night before he died. We will use the same elements of bread and wine he used when he broke the bread and passed the cup half a world away and scores of generations ago.
Although that was his last night on earth, Jesus still lives, and if we are willing to exercise our creative imaginations about this sacrament, we can think about all the ways he is present to us in each other, in these two sweet infant souls, in the unspeakably beautiful natural setting of this church by the river, in the waters of the Sheepscott flowing to the sea and the River Jordan as well. His being permeates the created world. That is why all change for good is possible if we, who partake of his life this morning, are willing to accept that we share his Spirit––and we do.
The re-creation of Tony’s father’s watch, Allison’s and Mary Elyse’s great-grandmother’s christening dress, my father’s signature in my baby book, the bread and wine permeated by the Spirit of the Living God revealed in Jesus, the Christ–– these are all manifestations of the unlimited expressions of God who is love. They are all symbols which become realities if we connect our belief with them.
And the reality that they communicate is that love lasts. Once we have loved, it never dies. It and we live forever in God, in Christ, and that is what we celebrate at two levels this morning: First, our two little girls baptized with the water of life into the family of God, especially as revealed in this household of faith; and second, fed the food of life in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper to maintain and sustain us. There is much to celebrate, there is much to be grateful for; there is much life left to live here and there, forever. Amen.