Pastor Jim's past sermons:
Baptismal Rhythm
Sunday, November 18, 2019
Psalm 30: 1-12
I Thessalonians 5: 1-11


Links to past sermons can be found at the bottom of this page.

    When Hunter was 18 months old, we had an opportunity to take a trip to Hawaii and so we did; and, it was a wonderful trip. We flew over there, had an amazing time and then we flew home. It was not until we got home, that we discovered something that we had not fully anticipated. We discovered that in Hunter there was a conflict going on, a conflict of two different realities. At 8:00 in the evening, the world around us was dark and we were trying to get him ready for bed. Hunter, on the other hand didn’t want anything to do with going to bed, because his body told him that it was really 2:00 in the afternoon. He was ready to play. There were two realities in conflict with each other, the outer reality of nighttime, and the inner reality of day time.
I share this story because this idea of two realities goes to the heart of what Paul is talking about in this part of his letter to the Thessalonians. For Paul, there is only two ways of living life, either with the knowledge of the love and saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, or living life without the knowledge of the love and saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; and, these two ways of living life are not identical. There maybe a little bit of overlap; but, for the most part they are different. These two ways of life have different purposes, they have different goals, they utilize different means of attaining those goals. One way honors Christ, the other does not. One way honors others as loved by Christ, the other does not. One way has hope of life beyond this life, the other does not. One way offers a foundation that allows us to weather the storms of life with peace, the other does not. As Christians, as those who know the love and saving grace of Jesus Christ we are living one reality while there are others around us who are living a different reality. It is two different time zones occurring simultaneously and in the same place.
That is how it was for the Thessalonians. Of course, unlike us who have two thousand years of the church behind us, who have been able to celebrate more than 240 years in this place, the Thessalonians were brand new to the faith. The church itself was brand new. Only a few years prior to this letter, the church didn’t even exist. In this church no one ever stood up in a congregational meeting and said, “this is how we’ve always done it.” They were the ones who could truly say, “we’ve never done it that way before.” And they were right. So, they had to figure out how to live one reality in the midst of another. And, as true as that was for the Thessalonians, it is true for us even today.
We may have two thousand years of the church behind us; but, that doesn’t change the fact that we are still living one reality in the midst of another. So, the question becomes how do we do it. Well, I think that Paul would say that we have to be intentional about shaping our lives around our knowledge of the love and saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Notice what Paul wrote, “be self controlled, put on faith and love as a breast plate. Put on the hope of salvation as a helmet. Encourage one another, build each other up. These are intentional acts that rise up from the reality in which we live, the reality of the love and saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Another way of stating what I think Paul is saying is that we need to design our lives around this reality of the love and saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. And, so, this morning, I want to share with you one way in which we can do that.
Last week, we had a baptism, and that reminding me of a teaching that I once came across from a Presbyterian Pastor in Arkansas, named Chip Andrus, who wrote about developing rhythms in our lives, most especially he wrote about developing a daily rhythm that was shaped by this reality of the love and saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. One example he gave for doing this was by utilizing a resource called Daily Prayer, which is from the Book of Common Worship put out by our denomination. In this resource, there are four daily liturgies of prayer, Morning Prayer, Midday Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Prayer at the End of the Day. Now, he wrote, that most people simply cannot set aside four times a day for prayer. There are just too many other things that we have to do in our lives. Nevertheless, he encouraged us to at least try and get in two of them, the Morning Prayer and the Prayer at the End of the Day. In other words, he encouraged us to begin and end our days with an intentional act of shaping our lives around the knowledge of the love and saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. And, the one guiding symbol that he wanted us to remember was that of our Baptism.
Baptism, as we remember, signifies our dying with Christ to sin and our rising with Christ to new life. As Paul said elsewhere in his letter to the Romans, “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through his baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. In baptism we are dead to sin but alive to God in Jesus Christ.” Or, to put in terms of the two realities that we have been talking about today, we have died with Christ to the one reality that does not know the love and saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we have risen to live the reality that does know the love and saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. This baptismal identity is highlighted in these morning prayers and prayers at the end of the day, so that taken together, they form a baptismal rhythm to our lives.  
Let me just share some of these prayers with you, starting with the Prayer at the End of the Day. The baptismal connection to this prayer is our dying with Christ. Listen to how it begins... Share the Prayer at the Close of the Day.
O Lord, support us all the day long
until the shadows lengthen
and the evening comes, 
and the busy world is hushed
and the fever of life is over
and our work is done.
Then, in your mercy, 
grant us safe lodging,
and a holy rest, 
and peace at the last.

O God, come to our assistance.
O Lord, hasten to help us.
The Lord grant us a restful night and a peaceful death.

Now, the night is over and by the grace of God we wake up. So, we have Morning Prayer and the baptismal connection is our rising with Christ to new live...
  Share the Morning Prayer.
O Lord, open my lips.
And my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Mighty God of mercy, 
we thank you for the resurrection dawn
bringing the glory of our risen Lord
  who makes everyday new.

Eternal God, 
we rejoice this morning in the gift of life, 
which we have received by your grace, 
and the new life you give in Jesus Christ.

Paul wrote that for us to live one reality in the midst of another requires intentionality on our part. This baptismal rhythm is one way of being intentional. It is a shaping and defining of our lives around our knowledge of the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, in a world that does not acknowledge his love and grace. So, I want to encourage each of us to find an intentional way of shaping, defining our lives around the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, to find a rhythm that speaks of this reality as opposed to the other reality. Maybe it can be a baptismal rhythm, maybe a table rhythm. I know of one family who because they like to have bread with their dinner every night, breaks apart a small loaf so that each of them can have some. Maybe you can find your own rhythm. May the love and saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be in our hearts and lives this day. Amen.