Monday, July 24, 2017

On Baptism and Confirmation

THE LIVING END


Now these things happened to them as an example,but they were written down for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages is come. 1 Corinthians 10:11

WE have an expression in English, "the living end," that we use to describe the outermost limits of any situation; of reaching the point beyond which there is no where left to go, no  where left to proceed.

The NBA championship in late June (2016), and the victory party in downtown Cleveland attended by a million and half people, was "the living end" for diehard Cleveland sports fans.  People whether they were sports fans or  not, came to celebrate.  They braved the crowds, bought the T-shirts and danced in the streets for this great mark of distinction for our beleaguered city.

This past week (2016)  political junkies who attended the RNC here in Cleveland experienced "the living end" of republican politics.  People came from all over the nation, and all over the world to attend, promote their cause, or just to be part of the experience.  Area residents poured into downtown in record number to feel the glory and behold the spectacle  so that one day they'd be able to tell their grandkids, "I was there."

It's not hard to understand these things, but because we are spiritually dull it is very hard to understand this little phrase that St. Paul writes in his sermon to the Corinthians, "upon whom the end of the ages is come."

When St. Paul wrote these words he was talking about the very things that are occurring   here today.   The Eucharistic Feast that either a person recognizes and loves with his whole  heart and soul and mind and strength; or that he is too dull to understand, so he despises it with equal fervor; and to be neutral to it, is to despise it.

To miss this event is to miss life, salvation, peace, joy, comfort, strength, consolation, courage in the face of death, and the way of escape God provides for every test and every   temptation.  To despise it is to worship yourself, and to befriend the world about you, which means to be at enmity with God.

This Great Feast we celebrate today has many parts to it but they are all ingredients of the one cake, the one prize, the one hope.  Here is the place where we pray, praise and give thanks; the place we confess our sins and receive divine pardon for them, the venue where our cup overflows with God's Word, where we confess our faith with "one voice" and make our gifts and offerings to our God.  Nothing bad ever happens here, but only good!  No one who comes here ever leaves the poorer for it, but always richer than when he came.

This is "the living end;" the place where all the future promises of heaven, the things we firmly believe, and ardent hope are set before us now.  We see them with our eyes, hear them with our ears, feel them in our emotions and taste them with our lips.  Here the "end of the ages, " the future promises of God are brought into the present.  Here the "sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest."  You are those sparrows and swallows.

But there are prerequisites for entering this holy house, and for receiving these staggering gifts; the very things we witnessed a few moments ago.

The first prerequisite is the sacrament of holy baptism.  By it those who are born of the flesh are born anew and begotten from above by the power of the Spirit.  In baptism sinners doomed to wrath and punishment for the "sins of their fathers, " and for their own sins, obtain the full redeeming benefits of the Lord's cross and resurrection.  Their wrongs are remitted.  They are delivered from death and the devil, gain a good conscience before God,   and receive every good and perfect gift from the Father of Lights.  In baptism children of men become children of God.  The old way of life dies and a new and better life commences.  Today Jason commences this new life.

The second prerequisite to partaking in the Eucharistic Feast is the rite of confirmation by which those who believe with their hearts confess the true faith with their lips before the believing assembly.   St. Paul writes, "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved."  Our Lord Jesus Christ also says, "Whoever confesses me before men, I will confess before my Father in heaven.  But whoever denies me before men, I will deny before my Father in heaven."

Today, following a period of dedicated study, four beloved children of God are making that  very confession, even as all of you have, and they will now join the Eucharistic Feast, the Mysteries of god, the Living End.

For this we rejoice with the angels of heaven and give eternal praise and glory to our gracious God and Father.  Let the feast begin.  Amen.

~ Rev. Dean Kavouras

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