St. Mark's Episcopal Church

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Easter Sunday 2017 Sermon
Corby Varness

Come with me on a journey.  Let’s go way back in time, oh, about 2000 years.  You are standing by a sunny lake in a dusty, desert land.  You are a young, teenage boy, working hard alongside your dad and brother.  Fishing all day, every day, barely eking out a living.  Most of your friends live similar, hard lives.  
One day a stranger comes along as you mend a net.  You politely greet him.  He looks at you, smiles and says; “Follow me.”  With no hesitation, you put down your net, kiss your father goodbye and walk off alongside this stranger.
I’m telling this story today because we have Jeffery in our midst, another young man who is choosing to follow Jesus.  Today Jeffery will be baptized into the Christian faith.
So Jeffery, let’s pretend that you are that young man from long ago, choosing to follow Jesus.  You set off along the lakeshore with him, taking nothing with you.  Soon, you are joined by more followers of this strange, powerful man. 
You go with him from town to town, listening to Jesus tell the most extraordinary stories.  He turns everything upside down, saying that the most important people in the world are not the rich and powerful but the poor, the meek, the sinners.  No one has ever heard a message like this.
He tells stories that can be so hard to understand (we call them parables today).  In these strange stories, the sinners, the least amongst us are always the winners.  How can that be?
He starts to perform miracles; healing a blind man, a leper, making a paralyzed man walk, and eventually commanding his friend Lazarus to walk out of his tomb after being dead for four days!  You hear the muttering and complaints from the powerful chief priests in the temple.  They don’t like Jesus and this frightens you because you have come to love this man.
But even Jesus is telling you that soon he will soon suffer and die … and then he will rise again.  No matter how many miracles you’ve seen, this is just over the top.  Surely, even Jesus can’t predict that he will come back from death!
One evening, you all gather together in an upper room to share the Passover dinner.  You eat and drink and Jesus, knowing that he will be leaving you soon, talks for a long time, giving you lots of advice and instruction.  He seems so sad so you are sad too.
After dinner, you go with Jesus to a garden so that he can pray.  You try to stay awake with him but you’re so sleepy after that big dinner, you just keep dozing off.  Suddenly, Roman soldiers arrive, their gear clanking noisily.  You see Judas kiss Jesus and the soldiers move quickly to grab him.  They take Jesus away.
You and your friends are terrified.  The Roman army deals with criminals very harshly.  Indeed, the road to Jerusalem is lined with bodies hanging from crosses.   You and Peter quietly follow to see what is going to happen to Jesus.  You cower in fear, terrified that if anyone recognizes you as a friend of Jesus, you too will hang.
The next day, on Friday, you stand in the crowd, watching them nail the hands and feet of your friend to a cross, and you think you will die of despair.  You go and join the other disciples hiding in a small, stuffy room, terrified that the soldiers will come for you.  It is so hard to believe that your beloved Jesus is gone.
Saturday goes by, so quiet, so still, so sad.  On Sunday morning, Mary declares that she is going to go prepare the body of Christ for a proper burial. 
She isn’t gone for long when she flies back into the room, shouting that the stone has been rolled away and the tomb is empty!  You and Peter race out, running all the way to the tomb.  You get there first, bend down and see the linen wrappings lying there.  You and Peter go into the empty tomb and suddenly understand everything!  Jesus told you that he would rise from the dead and now you can see that he has done so!  Amazed, you return to your village while Mary stays at the tomb.
Now we don’t know the name of this disciple - he is only referred to as “the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved.”  This young disciple made a simple decision to follow Jesus and his whole life changed.  Today, Jeffery is making a similar decision.
In today’s baptismal service, we will all be reminded that in baptism we are called to seek and serve Christ in everybody we meet.  We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves.  We are called to work for justice, peace, and dignity for every human being.  Our Jeffery, at his young age, is already doing this when he chooses to serve food to the hungry in Aberdeen.  He has the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit right there, working alongside him, strengthening him every moment of the day.
Today Jeffery will say yes to baptism.  We will also renew our baptismal vows and say yes.  Today we will all say ‘yes’ to following Jesus.  Truly saying ‘yes’ to our baptism is the daily work of the rest of our lives.  It is saying yes to the world and yes to a life torn open by the love of God.
Please join me in prayer: Dear God, we know that the risen Christ fills this church as we gather to remember his glorious resurrection.  So fill our hearts and fill our lives this Easter morning that we can all know the peace that your love brings.  Come to us, loving God and especially bless Jeffery in his baptism today.  Alleluia!