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Sermon for Nov. 26th - Baptism

Sermon for Nov. 26th - Baptism

Nov 26, 2017

Passage: Matthew 25:31-46

Preacher: Rob Donehue

Series: Baptism


Sermon for the Last Sunday after Pentecost, Year A
Nov. 26th, 2017- the Baptism of John Warner Battle
St. Anne’s, Conway (Lackey Chapel at Coastal Carolina) 

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24       Ephesians 1:15-23        Matthew 25:31-46

Buen Camino. 

The sermon this morning is going to be a little different than normal. I’m only going to be talking to one person. Y’all can listen in, of course, but I’m really only going to talk to one person (even if he is asleep). John Warner, even though I know you won’t now understand what I say, I want for us to have a talk about what is happening to you today. I want to tell you why this day is such an amazing and important part of your life. I want to explain why us pouring a little water over you and then using some oil to make the sign of the cross on your head may be something you will one day think about as the single most transforming thing that ever happened to you. Because today is the beginning of your journey of faith. We do not know where it will take you. We do not know what twists and turns your road will have in store. But the one thing that we can say is that we’re all here to make sure that your journey begins well.  

And I’d like to tell you a story about a road in Spain that I think is a perfect example of what I hope you’ll eventually understand about today. It’s the story of the pilgrimage road of Santiago de Compostela. Christian pilgrims have been walking the Compostela road, popularly known as “the camino,” for centuries. Some begin the journey hundreds of miles away, and it takes them months of walking to finally reach their destination. The oldest route winds through the pleasant valleys and foothills of southern France before going up over a mountain range that is challenging even for the most experienced of hikers. The road then heads west, across some of the hottest and driest parts of Spain, and there is little shelter from the sun for much of the westward journey. Many describe this part of the journey as the most grueling and arduous. Finally, the road goes through the region of Galicia, which is a semi-mountainous area, lushly forested and breathtakingly beautiful, before the final descent into the city of Compostela, with its magnificent cathedral. Pilgrims who walk the road discover many things along the way - about the beauty of their surroundings, about the cultures of Spain, about the importance of having a good pair of hiking boots, and much else besides. But the most important discoveries that pilgrims make are about themselves - about their strengths, their limitations, and their connection with the other pilgrims on the road. 

There is a greeting that pilgrims on the Compostela road say to one another all along the way. When pilgrims pass one another or meet each other at a resting point, they will say, “Buen camino.” Literally, it translates to, “good road,” but there’s a wealth of meaning behind those two little words. When one says, “Buen camino,” it means, “I know you are also a pilgrim on this road, just like me. I know that you have seen amazing and beautiful things and are likely to see more. I know that you have faced difficulties and will likely face more. No matter if you’re just starting out or if you’ve been on the road for a long time, I know that you are on this road because you hope to travel well and reach your destination. Our paths have crossed for this short time, but even though our meeting may be brief, know that I am here to help you if you need help; that I support you and offer you this word of encouragement as you continue on your journey.” I know that sounds like an awful lot of meaning crammed into two small words, but I can assure you that “Buen camino” does mean all of those things and probably much more besides. 

And today is our first chance to wish you, John Warner, a “buen camino.” Our job is to make sure that you are well-equipped for the journey ahead, and we promise to guide you along the first steps of your walk with Christ. Even more: we promise to be with you to help you discover the wonders and joys of life as you make your way through the pleasant valleys and foothills of childhood. We promise to be with you as you face the sometimes mountainous challenges of growing up into adulthood. We promise to be with you over the long journey which sometimes may leave you longing for relief from the dryness and weariness of life. We promise to be with you as you near your journey’s end, to share your joy as you discover the full beauty and reward of being on this road. Finally, we promise to be with you when you reach the end of your earthly pilgrimage. And all along the way, we will keep wishing you a “buen camino.” All along the way, we will keep saying, “We are here to help you if you need help. We support you and offer you encouragement as you continue on your journey.” And we hope that as you make your way, you will learn what this greeting means so that you, too, can wish others a “buen camino” and help them along their way. That’s what is going on here today as you set out on your journey.  

There’s one more thing about the Compostela road that I hope you might find helpful in understanding what we’re doing here this morning. Whenever pilgrims set out on the Compostela road, they take with them a shell, sometimes with a cross painted on it. Normally the pilgrims tie it to their travel bag or attach it to their walking sticks. It’s sort of like a badge of pilgrimage, and when you see someone on the road with that shell, you know immediately that they are pilgrims. And that’s kind of like what we’re doing here this morning. In just a few minutes, you will be baptized. I will be pouring some water on you, and then I will make the sign of the cross on your forehead and say, “You are marked as Christ’s own, forever.” And that means that you will be marked as a pilgrim. For as long as you live, you will bear the mark of the pilgrim, and we, your fellow pilgrims, will know that that mark means that you are a beloved child of God, and we will do everything in our power to honor you as a child of God and help you along your way. 

And now, I’d like to say a few words to the folks here who have gathered to welcome you into your larger family. 

John Warner is about to begin his pilgrimage. He is about to set out on the long journey of life, and it is a truly joyful thing for us to be here to support him. Each of us here has a role to play, no matter how small it may seem, in teaching John Warner what it means to be a pilgrim. So I encourage you all to pay special attention to the promises that you are making as you renew your baptismal vows. Know that you are making a specific commitment to support John Warner in his life in Christ. Know also that he will be supporting you in your life in Christ. With that in mind I invite you all to ponder the sacred mystery of what we are about to do, and then join me in wishing John Warner a “buen camino.”