Pastor Wesley White
Fifth Avenue United Methodist Church
323 Fifth Avenue, West Bend, WI
262.334.2059 - faumc.org
In our United Methodist study on baptism, By Water and the Spirit, we hear these words: "Through baptism the Church is created, and in the Lord's Supper the Church is sustained."
At our 10:30 Sunday worship we will have both a baptism and communion.
What we have just heard in the gospel of John is an interesting line, "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit."
Let's listen in to this reminder from Jesus from the perspective of baptism and communion.
Baptism is both a sign of GOD's grace toward us wherein we are claimed by GOD as a beloved child and a sign of our joyful response to GOD. Baptism can happen anywhere along life's journey. Given that in the last month we have had more funerals than baptisms we may want to consider our invitational work to adults who have not had a connection with Christ's Church and to have some adult baptisms as well as infant baptisms.
One of the more dramatic images of baptism is that which sometimes takes place in Orthodox Churches where a naked infant is put into and held under the water in the baptismal font for a bit and is brought up spluttering and thankful for air. It is a stunning picture of what it means to die with Christ and be raised with Christ.
In our own small font it is difficult to get a sense that we are disappearing into the baptismal water as a sign of our trust that GOD will care for every moment of our life, even those moments when we feel overwhelmed by some personal tragedy or community sorrow.
The grain of wheat, the small, insignificant thing any one of us is, must fall and die. In baptism we know our life to be lived in GOD's care.
A part of the imagery is that the single grain of wheat, the single baptized person, is about to be transformed.
"If the single grain dies, it bears much fruit." And so the single grain of wheat ceases to be a seed grain. It bursts it bonds, its shell. It puts out roots into the soil and begin to lift a stalk to the sky where 30 or 60 or 100 more seed grains will grow.
And so the single individual ceases to be one person alone. They burst their selfishness, their limitations. They put out roots into the Church and begin to lift their life to heaven where 30 or 60 or 100 others are brought into a life of Christian servanthood.
In baptism you and I, grains of wheat, follow where Jesus leads to die and be lifted up from the earth.
This baptismal process is so central to GOD in Christ and GOD in you and GOD in me and GOD in the Church and GOD in the world, that we can't go deeply enough into the spirituality of willingly offering ourselves and our lives against "the ruler of this world" and for "GOD's kingdom come on earth."
In like manner we cannot make enough of the centrality of the community of faith nurtured upon the blood of the martyrs and the lives of the saints. We feed off the gift of life brought by those who have died to this world and be raised to witness to a better way of living. These martyrs and saints and Sunday School Teachers and people who care for people in the workplace and those who stretch our spirits and imaginations - all are bringing forth more goodness than they started with.
The many grains of wheat that are brought forth from individual grains having died to themselves alone can be used to make bread. In our communion time we will be sharing bread. The many individual grape vines bring forth many grapes that can be used to make juice or wine.
We are literally dependent for life because of the way one part of creation gives itself up that more may come forth.
We would not physically last long if this process of dying and bearing much fruit were to stop. We would not spiritually last long if others had not sacrificed to bring us this far along and offered us the opportunity to sacrifice on behalf of future generations that they might be drawn to Christ by what is evidenced in our lives. Truly, the Christ's Church will grow as others see how much we love each other and love them even before they think they are loveable.
As we share the bread and the cup we are sustained by the dying found in baptism. As baptized people we taste the bread and the cup and find the courage to follow Jesus to not remain an individual person but to see ourselves in light of the salvation needs of the whole world.
Baptism and Communion. Dying and bearing much fruit.
So sustained, now come the difficult questions for us.
Do you find your soul troubled in this day? I suspect we all have our troubles. For some it is very personal: Habits that get in the way, broken expectations, entitlements not come true, illness, etc. For some it is both personal and relational: Betrayal by a friend, care for a child, concern for a parent, an unforgiven hurt received or given, etc. For some it is both personal and communal whether that be local community or global community: imbalance between common defense and general welfare spending, conflict between jobs and profits, the limits of war and diplomacy, etc.
We cannot avoid these and other issues that trouble our souls.
May we hear Jesus push us to the gifts of baptism and communion.
What are we to say when our soul is troubled? Shall we say, "GOD,
save me from this hour?" Shall we think and act as though
our faith will keep us from all harm?
It is where our souls are troubled that we are called to witness to our baptismal trust in GOD and our communion sustenance of the Body of Christ, the Church.
We don't give up. We are willing to enter the difficult parts of life, offering our own lives that more and better life will be available in the future. We follow Jesus in facing up to trouble. We take it head on and trust we will find that GOD is glorified in our living as the baptized and the communed who have fallen into the earth and bear much good fruit.
We honor those who die in war. May GOD have mercy on their souls, grant them rest, and bring forth much good fruit from their sacrifice.
We honor those who die resisting war. May GOD have mercy on their souls, grant them rest, and bring forth much good fruit from their sacrifice.
We honor those who die facing their soul's trouble. May GOD have mercy on their souls, grant them rest, and bring forth much good fruit from their sacrifice.
We honor all those gathered here today who are still facing their soul's trouble. May you know the strength of GOD's mercy; may you take the yoke of Christ upon yourself and find it light; may you so live that others will also live.