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Seventh Sunday of Easter

Ascension: between heaven and earth

Seventh Sunday of Easter
1. Today we will be celebrating the Baptism of little Ava Marie Edwards. Through her
Baptism Ava will become an adopted daughter of God and a member of our
Let me start by welcoming Avas family and friends to St. James. We are happy that you have
joined us today. Know that you will always be welcome in the little stone church with a warm
If you are baptized and would like to receive communion with us, join us and dont be shy. We
do not require confession before communion in the Episcopal church. If you think you are a
sinner, join the club: we are all sinners here. Ask Gods forgiveness and come to receive the
Eucharist. It can only help you.
Baptism and the Eucharist are two of the most ancient rituals of the church that trace their origin
back to Jesus and to the the beginning of the church
2. The first reading from Acts describes the last act of Jesus life on earth, his
ascension into heaven, and the very first step of the baby church
Jesus mission had come to an end. He had completed the task, the mission for which he,
being God, had become also a human being. The purpose of his mission was to complete the
revelation of God and to reconcile humanity to God.
Gods revelation had begun with Abraham and with the people of Israel. Jesus completed the
task of revealing God to humanity, disclosing God.
Although much of what we know about God comes from the Old Testament, Jesus completed
the task by separating the human/cultural elements in the Bible (such as all the 613 rules of
the O.T.) from the revelation of God as love.
Jesus was at once God and a human being, and the human being named Jesus had a limited
life span: he was born nearly 2,000 years ago, grew up as a regular Jew, when he was baptized
by John, the Holy Spirit descended on him, he started preaching and performing miracles, ran
into trouble with the leaders of the Jews, was killed, rose from the dead and, his life on earth
ended when he ascended to heaven.
Seventh Sunday of Easter
3. At the time, Jews believed that the universe was made of 3 layers: the earth
(which was flat), above the earth there was a dome and heaven was over the
dome, below the earth was the underworld, where the souls of the dead rested.
The Bible is not a science book and uses images and concepts understandable by the original
audience. So, the Gospel says that Jesus went up to heaven, above the dome of the sky, where
presumably God lived.
Jesus job was done, his mission accomplished, and a new phase in the history of salvation was
about to begin. The Church, the assembly of those who believed in Jesus and followed his
principles, was about to take over the task of bringing God to the people and the people to God.
Next Sunday we will celebrate Pentecost: the event when the Holy Spirit was sent by the Father
and the Son to enlighten the disciples, guide them and support them in their mission to preach
the Gospel to the whole world.
4. I want to call your attention for a moment to what happened after Jesus
disappeared: the disciples stood there staring at the sky, until they got a message
from God: men of Galilee, stop looking at the sky, you got a job to do right here on
The message was delivered to the Apostles to prepare them for what would be happening next:
The Holy Spirit was about to enlighten them, support them and guide them in their task to
continue the mission of Jesus
But the message is also delivered to us and has another implication: some view Christianity as a
contemplation of God, the task of establishment of a personal relationship with God. They go to
church and block out the world to talk with God one-on-one
The message to the men of Galilee and to us is a warning against reducing religion to a
personal nirvana. We are called to follow Jesus and for Jesus religion was involvement in the
world: dont stare at the sky roll up your sleeves and become involved in your communities
and in society to make the world a better place, to bring the kingdom of God a step closer.
Seventh Sunday of Easter
5. Please understand that I am not trying to discourage you from coming to church and
quietly communicating with God, or from praying as a community in the celebration of
the Sacraments. All of that is fine. It shows that we believe in a personal God who is
close to us, a God who loves and supports us.
But that is not enough. Jesus reached out to all the people who were excluded from his community:
the lepers, the blind, the publicans, the prostitutes and brought them in. The commandment to love
God with all your heart is followed by a second commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. So
dont spend too much time staring at the sky: God is not in the sky, God is here in our neighbors. We
love God by loving our neighbors.
As Christians, we are called to establish the kingdom of heaven here on earth by making our
communities a better place for all our brothers and sisters, a place that is more just, more fair, more
open, more welcoming. We are called to include everyone as Jesus did. The Acts of the Apostles
report that the early disciples put all of their resources in common and shared them with the needy.
Christianity is not about staring at the sky, but about involvement here on earth
6. Today we carry out our mission on earth by welcoming a new member, by baptizing
Ava, by helping her parents raise her as a Christian, by supporting all our children as
they grow up, but teaching them, by our example, what it takes to be Christians
In Baptism, we make a covenant with God. Avas parents and Godparents will make it on her behalf.
But, with every Baptism, each of us is asked to renew our own covenant with God.
Take out your bulletin and let us review together the Baptismal covenant: the first part is a statement
that we believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then we are reminded that we worship as a
community, that we are human and make mistakes, and when we do we must repent and start over.
Then we are reminded that preaching the Gospel is not merely the job of the priest, but yours too.
Preach the Gospel by what you do, use words if you must (St. Francis of Assisi). The last two
statement remind us that to be Christians we need to recognize Jesus in our brothers and sisters in
need, and finally we need to strive for peace and respect the dignity of every individual.
Let us make the world a better place for Ava and for everyone. Let us include everyone as Jesus did.