July 24th, 2022: Seventh Sunday of Pentecost

Category: Weekly Sermons

Hosea 1:2-10; Psalm 85; Colossians 2:6-15 (16-19)

Luke 11:1-13

The Rev. Candice B. Frazer

In the first Harry Potter book, The Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry receives an invisibility cloak that had belonged to his father as a Christmas gift. Harry’s parents died when he was a year old and he had grown up in his aunt’s home with his cousin and uncle—emotionally neglected and borderline abused. The cloak brings him a sense of closeness with this father he had never known but always loved. That night he puts on the cloak and heads out to explore Hogwart’s Castle—his boarding school. He finds a room with a mirror in it, the mirror of Erised. There is an inscription carved around the top that says, “I show not your face but your heart’s desire,” though Harry could not read it as it is written cryptically. When Harry steps in front of it, he barely contains his surprise. Though the room is empty, looking back at him from the mirror is his family. His parents drape him on either side and beyond them are what most have been cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents. He has never seen pictures of any of his relatives, other than his cousin Dudley, but they have green eyes like he does, and noses like his, and his knobbly knees, and some of them have hair that won’t flatten down no matter how much they press it. He drinks in this delicious sight. A sight he has longed for all of his life—his heart’s desire. He goes back the next night and the next until one night, he is caught by Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster. Dumbledore tells Harry he will be moving the mirror and warns him not to seek it though should he ever find it again; he now knows its power. Dumbledore cautions Harry that it is not good to dwell on dreams and forget to live.  

There is a certain synergy for us and the Colossians in that message. When we get overly focused on that which makes us feel good to the point of obsession—even mild obsession—we forget to live. As the body of Christ, our life blood is not found in mountain top experiences or spiritual highs, it is in the everyday experiences of knowing God. Mountain tops are not bad things—one of the few stories that appears in all three synoptic Gospels –Matthew, Mark, and Luke—is the transfiguration of Christ which happens on a mountain top.  

Jesus often goes to a mountain to pray. Moses receives the Ten Commandments on top of a mountain. Abraham discovers the promises of God’s salvific hand on top of a mountain when he goes to sacrifice Isaac. Time and again we hear of powerful moments in the story of God and his people happening on the top of a mountain.  Many of us, in describing our Cursillo experience, refer to it as a mountain top. We hear stories or know people who achieve some spiritual high through the speaking of tongues or other elevated psycho-spiritual experiences. But these experiences can only take us so far. They are not meant to be the foundation upon which we build a life with Christ.

In the letter to the Colossians, we hear that we are buried with Christ in baptism and raised with him in faith. Our faith does not require mountain top experiences because we have been invited to participate in the fullness of Christ through the waters of baptism. (Later) This morning we will baptize a child and mark her as Christ’s own forever. We will make certain promises on behalf of this child, and we will reaffirm our own baptismal covenant. We do this as a sign of our faith and a reminder of who we are as Christians. Though we are often distracted by sin and our need to reassure ourselves that our sins are forgiven and won’t keep us out of heaven, that is not the primary purpose of baptism. We baptize as a rite of initiation—a liturgical marking of the moment in which we, as the body of Christ, affirm this person as sharing in the covenant God has made with us. That covenant was initiated with Abraham and passed down through the generations of kings and prophets to be realized in Christ Jesus: God will be our God and we will be God’s people. Baptism is all that is necessary to know God and to trust in his promise of salvation—yet too often we are distracted by those things which try to destroy the very promise we hope to cling too.

Though the Colossians were first century followers in the Jesus movement, they began to desire a spiritual high as the grounds for their love and knowledge of the Lord. They became distracted and pursued deeply ascetic practices designed to achieve a spiritually ecstatic experience. These practices were austere in design—limiting food and drink, self-abasement through methods of humiliation designed to punish their bodies for their perceived sins, the worship of angels, and a desire for visions to offer direction and discover hopes unrealized. They argued theology with greater concern than witnessing to the glory of God. They did not hold God at the center of their religious pursuit, but religion itself. That is the danger of the church—that we get so preoccupied with our faith we push God to the side and seek, instead, a mountain top experience that inspires but cannot satisfy the God we yearn to know and be in relationship with.  

Ascetic practices and spiritual highs aim at something good, but they fall short of the mark because they hold a misperception of the true nature of the good and they seek to achieve the good in misguided ways. The true good is to hold simply to God who shows up in ordinary, everyday kinds of ways like a dragonfly in your backyard or a puppy who pounces for pure joy or a baby who eats fistfuls of cake at his first birthday party or the smile of a stranger in the checkout line at the grocery store. We are each enough. Put us all together and we become worthy—worthy to love God and worthy of the love of God. That is what baptism reminds us as the people of God and that worthiness is the sign of our faith for all the world to see and know God.  

For Harper Wade, she will not have to seek the Mirror of Erised to find fulfillment. She will seek Christ through her relationships. She will learn about Jesus in Sunday school and at VBS and Children’s Chapel. She will see how Jesus loves us when we offer love to her. She will know that hope is stronger than suffering and faith greater than pain because her life will be grounded in Christ through her baptism when she is received as a member of the body and marked as Christ’s own forever. The world will do its best—or maybe I should say it’s worst—in its attempt to distract her from her true joy. It will tell her that she always has to do more, be more, to be acceptable. The world does not want her or us to remember that we are beloved children of God whose purpose is love, whose strength is drawn from the waters of baptism, and whose hope is in the shape of a cross. 



   Amen

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