Six weeks ago we began Lent.
And about an hour ago, we began the story of Creation, and –
more importantly, the redemption of the human race.
So many stories of what God has done!
Why are these stories, and these words, the ones we recall tonight?
We heard God create a perfect world.
But we know that humanity sinned and defaced that beauty.
Above all, the beauty and glory of what it means to be human.
And we heard about God’s call to Abraham,
And his deliverance of slaves from Egypt.
Along the way, we heard about human failing coming back to the fore.
God’s People, brought into freedom, go back into slavery and exile.
But the main thing we heard – and this is what it’s all about – is this:
God gets the last word!
God had the first word: “Let there be light.”
And after all the human words, such as, “I will not obey,” or,
“It’s too late for me!” God’s last word is:
“He is not here, he is risen from the dead! Alleluia!”
All this past week, I’ve been hearing confessions.
And as you probably know, many times we come to confession,
and especially if it’s been a long time,
or we have so much on our conscience, we can find ourselves wondering,
How can God forgive? How can he love me that much?
The Cross, is his “I love you” written in the precious blood of the Lamb.
The empty tomb is his underlining and exclamation point that says,
“And I really mean it, and I can do it!”
And in the sacraments – in baptism, in confirmation,
in the Holy Eucharist, in confession, in the anointing of the sick,
and in the sacraments that empower our vocation,
either for marriage or for holy orders,
God says, “I am with you always, until the end of the age!”
Why are you here? Why are you here?
Well, you might say, I’m here every week.
Or, you might say, well, it’s Easter, so I thought I’d come.
Or, my grandmother made me come!
But there is another reason. God is speaking to you.
Sometimes his voice sounds a lot like your grandmother!
God brought you here for a reason, I can only guess at it.
But maybe it is to tell you that your life, as good as it is, is his gift.
And if it’s not so good, it can be better.
But if Christ isn’t part of it, there’s a big hole that nothing can fill.
Last week, as we all know, the great cathedral of Notre Dame
caught fire, and for several hours,
it looked as though it would be completely destroyed.
Something amazing happened.
All this happened in France. You may not realize it,
but France is a militantly secular country,
and only a few people go to Mass.
And yet the whole country of France held its breath and,
I bet some of those unbelievers even prayed!
Why? Because it’s an old and beautiful building?
That’s part of it, but it isn’t the whole story.
I think folks saw something they’d taken for granted,
because it was always there,
and then, suddenly, they realized how fragile it was;
and if they weren’t careful, they could lose it.
And that something isn’t just a church,
but what inhabits that church: and that is Faith.
The whole world watched and wondered,
And I think a lot of people heard something in their heart:
That was God saying, I’m still here, I’m here for you.
And maybe you heard that in your heart this week, too?
So to return to my main theme: God gets the last word.
Oh, we argue with him; we try to talk over him,
and we do a lot of things to drown out the voice of conscience.
Yet God keeps speaking, keeps inviting: will you come to me?
Will you let me forgive you?
Will you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit in your life?
Will you live a new life, shaped not by the world’s standards,
but by the word and example and life and power of Jesus Christ?
Will you let me accompany you, day by day?
Will you walk with me, not only the way of the Cross,
But all the way to heaven?
Tonight, a member of our community,
a second-grade girl named M____, has heard God call her,
and she is answering his invitation.
Tonight, she will be baptized, she will be confirmed, and she will,
beginning tonight, share in the Body and Blood of Jesus.
I don’t know if you realize it, but of all the sacraments,
baptism is the one that Easter is about most of all.
Easter is Jesus’ rising from the dead.
Easter is an empty grave – and when it comes right down to it,
either that really happened, or it didn’t.
If he didn’t really rise from the dead, then this is all a waste of time.
But if he did – and I’m here to tell you he did!
And if so, then that’s power, power for you and for me!
That’s what baptism is: claiming that resurrection power!
Here’s something else baptism is.
God is, in a sense, having the first word –
because in baptism, we are spoken into life by God.
In baptism you and I are born a new person.
Born into God’s Family. Born as citizens of heaven.
Born of the Holy Spirit!
But even in this sacrament of baptism,
there is a sense in which God gets the last word, too.
I’ve seen it, in my own life, and I’ve seen it in others.
The grace and power of our baptism is always there,
and I’ve seen people who, at the end of their lives –
and maybe they put God on the back burner for a long time –
yet what happened in them so long before is still with them,
when God claimed them, changed them,
and made them his own, and they remember.
That’s not a guarantee. People can turn away forever, and they do.
Nevertheless, there is a power in baptism,
because God is speaking, and God is acting.
So, in a moment, M____ will be baptized and confirmed.
She’s heard God speak and she wants what God has for her!
Then, a moment after that, you and I have the opportunity
to follow her good example, and claim again what is already ours.
We’ll renew our own baptism. You and I will remember who we are.
Who spoke to us once, and again, and is speaking to us now.