Day by Day
Have you ever wanted to time travel? To have one of those time machines like you see in the movies that can transport you to another time and place? Well, we’re going to let our first reading from Acts do that for us today. To take us back to Day One of the Church.
Today we celebrate the baptism of Brandy. It’s a great day in the life of our church whenever we celebrate a baptism. But it does raise questions for us. What is it that Brandy is being baptized into? Baptism is an initiation rite, it’s a sign of new life in Christ, it’s the sacrament of becoming a Christian. But what does it mean to become a Christian? What is Christianity?
If I asked people that question, I think that most people these days would say that Christianity is a religion. And in our time and place, as people who are still profoundly shaped by the Enlightenment period in Europe, we tend to think of religions as belief systems. That is, to be Christian is to hold certain things to be true, for example, to be able to say the creeds and to assent to the statements that are found in them.
And there is some truth in that. As Christians we do hold certain beliefs, we do hold certain things to be true. What we believe is important, it helps to orient us, it grounds us. But our faith, our new life in Christ, what Brandy is being baptized into today, is much more than a collection of beliefs to which we give our assent.
What is that something more? Well, time for our time travel. Let’s go back to the beginning, to the first day, to the very first day of the church.
Our reading from Acts that we heard this morning takes place on that first day. It’s the day of Pentecost, the day that the Holy Spirit comes upon the apostles who are cloistered in that upper room in Jerusalem, fills and empowers them, and sends them out proclaiming the good news of Jesus in many languages for all to hear. Peter is the one who raises his voice and addresses the crowds. He tells them that Jesus of Nazareth was a man sent by God, attested by God to us through deeds of power. That Jesus was crucified and killed, but that he was raised by God and of that Peter and the apostles are witnesses. And that by raising him to new life, God has made Jesus both Lord and Messiah. Then, when Peter finishes speaking, something amazing happens. There are baptisms, lots of them, all on that day of Pentecost.
“So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.”
And, the text goes on, “They devoted themselves” . . . well, to what did they devote themselves?
In our time, we might think that when we become Christians, we devote ourselves to upholding certain beliefs and maybe to going to church on Sundays as well. But that’s not what our Day One text says. Instead it says this:
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
And, we’re told, they did it day by day. For the Day One church, Christianity was not a belief system. And it wasn’t a once-a-week activity. It was a way of life that was lived out day by day. The new way of life in Christ into which most of us were baptized, into which Brandy is about to be baptized, is a new way of living, a new lifestyle which is lived out day by day. One of the promises that Brandy will make in a few moments, and that all of us will make as we renew our own baptismal vows today is taken directly from this text in Acts, from the life of the Day One church.
“Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers?”
To which we will respond, “I will, with God’s help.”
So maybe before we make that promise, we should talk a bit about these things.
For the Day One Church, the apostles’ teaching came to them directly from the lips of the apostles. The apostles who had been with Jesus passed on what they had been taught by Jesus during their time with him and what they had witnessed of his life, death and resurrection. Eventually, they set down the most important parts in writing, and this is what we have received. For us the apostles’ teaching is the scriptures of the New Testament, and as the baptized, the study of scripture is to be part of our day by day way of life. That’s how we devote ourselves to the apostles’ teaching.
But we don’t do this in isolation, for we also devote ourselves to the apostles’ fellowship. Our faith is a way of life informed by the apostles’ teaching and lived out in community. Fellowship, relationships, gathering, being together, all of this matters. Think about what Jesus taught, what the apostles’ passed on to us: that we should love one another, that we should practice forgiveness, that we should care for each other and especially for those in need. You can’t do those things all by yourself. The Christian way of life is a way of life lived in community. And the church is intended to be a concrete expression of that community, a living embodiment of the apostles’ fellowship.
The three thousand who were baptized also devoted themselves to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Day by day they spent much time together in the temple and they broke bread at home. The breaking of bread and the prayers. One way we do this is through our worship. In our communion service this morning, we will pray together and we will break bread together. But there is more. Remember last Sunday’s gospel on the road to Emmaus? It is in the breaking of bread that Jesus is made known to the disciples. The breaking of bread is our way of communing with one another and with Jesus. It is our way of knowing that we are welcome and that we are wanted. It is how we receive Christ in our lives. It is a sacrament of divine nourishment, a nourishment that we need day by day. It is a reminder that hospitality, generosity, the sharing of what God has given us, and the simple act of gathering at table for a meal, these are spiritual practices.
And prayer? Well prayer is the foundation of the Christian life. It is time spent in the presence of God, getting to know God, sharing something of ourselves, listening to the divine voice, building a relationship. Prayer is God’s work in us and it’s a practice to which we are to be devoted, day by day.
The Day One Church devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Day by day. And something powerful happened. Awe came upon everyone. They were together, they held all things in common, they took care of those in need. And day by day, the Lord added to their number.
In a few minutes, Brandy, you will be baptized. You will be baptized into new life in Christ, a new way of life marked by the study of scripture and the teachings of Jesus, by prayer and the breaking of bread, lived in relationship with others and with God, graced by hospitality given and received and by our love and care for one another. This is our faith. It is a joyful way of life, a glad and generous way of life that is lived out day by day.
May God be with you, this day and all the days to come.
Homily. Yr A Easter 4, April 30 2023, Trinity. Baptism
Readings: Acts 2.41-47; Ps 23, 1 Peter 2.19-25; John 10.1-10