Sunday, April 13, 2008

plaid sheep

In the name of God, merciful Father, compassionate Son, Spirit of wisdom. Amen.

When she was a freshman in college Margaret had a poster in her dorm room, of a herd of sheep. They weren’t ordinary white or black sheep: they were colored like Benetton fabrics, in wild bright solid colors, and polka dots, and stripes, and plaid. They were a little like us, all different, some of our patterns dyed in the wool. And they were like us, too, in that underneath those colors they were all the same – and all, if their wool were washed, would be as white as spring lambs.

Last week (Tartan Day) some of us at the 10:30 celebration wore tartans – symbols of clan or family or country or state, of some affiliation: a sign of a source of identity. Not everybody got the word, and not everybody has a tartan.

Of course you could just wear plaid.

But coming up is a celebration we all have a part in, and have an identity in: at the Table of the Lord, we break one bread, as we are one body, and we bring to that table all that we are and have.

We offer the gifts of our life and labor to the Lord, each of us from our own particularity, our own special gifts and identities – tartans included – as we come together around the one table to celebrate in the presence of the one who is Lord.

And even before that, earlier in the service, we will affirm our common faith in the words of the creed, just as we do on baptismal Sundays – including Pentecost, All Saints, and the Baptism of our Lord – and the Easter Vigil. For as different as we are, we are one in the Lord, and we share one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.

At baptism we don a simpler garment than our everyday patterns and plaids – we wear a simple white garment, the alb – which symbolizes our common heritage in Christ, our washing white as snow in the waters of baptism. The alb symbolizes baptism – and resurrection. This garment, blending all the colors of the rainbow, shows our true nature:

All of us are baptized into the Lord Jesus Christ. For each and all of us that is our first identity. We belong to God.

Christ is our Savior, our guide, and our shepherd: he leads us, calling us by name, by the waters of baptism. He is the one who knows us best of all. To understand this true identity let us revisit the waters of baptism.

Let me take you on a journey down to a river. Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and imagine yourself at the banks of the river Jordan. Jesus has been baptized, and so have you.

You have been baptized with him, and in him; into his life, his death, his resurrection and ascension. And so when you hear these words – that you are about to hear – you know the Lord means Jesus, and, because Jesus is your Savior, he means you as well.

Hear then, these words, as you are baptized into Christ and live in his Name:

You are my beloved; in you I am well pleased.

Listen to these words: breathe in and out, repeating them like a quiet prayer.

You are my beloved; in you I am well pleased.

Remember them, and remember that you are one of Christ’s own, and he is with you.

You are my beloved; in you I am well pleased.

We are at the river, at the shore. The current is flowing by: gently and softly in places, still and sweet; in others, it is frothy and turbulent, and strong. And yet beside you stands the Shepherd, braced in the living water, ready to guard you, ready to guide you. The waters of baptism are living waters, flowing with life, refreshing you, and carrying you along. Where will they take you next?

Wherever you go, wherever the current of the living water carries you, Christ Jesus is always beside you seeing you through.

Even if you should walk through the valley of the shadow of death, the Good Shepherd is with you, his rod to defend you, his staff to guide you – and he will lead you beside quiet waters and tranquil shorelines, to the pastures of abundant life.

Imagine yourself walking down into the river, immersing your self. When you are baptized the waters close over you like a symbol of death – but as you are lifted out of the water, as you are raised, you begin to breathe in the new life, you begin to see in the new day.

You begin to live in the light of the life of the lord, in the Lord’s Day, in his world.

What will this look like to us here in Edmonds? What will it look like to you?

As you begin the new Day, the Day the Lord has made, today – as we make Eucharist together and then go forth in the name of the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit, where will the Spirit lead you, the Shepherd guide you? So much is unknown, and yet he is with us.

We know how to begin: it’s laid out for us in the second chapter of Acts: “Those who had been baptized devoted themselves to (1) the apostles’ teaching and (2) fellowship, to (3) the breaking of bread and (4) the prayers.” They praised God with glad and generous hearts. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

May it be so with us. Amen.

Please join me in saying the 23rd Psalm in the King James Version (BCP, pg. 474).

The LORD is my shepherd; *
I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; *
he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul; *
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his Name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil; *
for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; *
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, *
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.


The guided meditation is based on one led by the presiding bishop at diocesan clergy day this past Wednesday.

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