2nd Sunday Easter Sermon

Sermon Title:  2nd Sunday of Easter 2015 (Baptism/Farewell to EA/ 100th Dedication of St Pauls)

Date: 12th April 2015

Preacher: Rev’d Susanne Chambers

Church Calendar: 2nd Sunday of Easter

Lectionary Reading: Acts 4:32-37 Psalm 133 1 John 1.1 – 2.2 John 20.19-31

Touch the bricks. Move out of your seats those who are close to the walls…those who can’t then touch the wood of the pew in front of you.

It’s amazing isn’t it; to think these are over 100 years old!

Today we celebrate the dedication 100years ago, of this brick church.

So many prayers have been said in this place and soaked into the brick and wood.

Before this brick church was built there was a small wooden church building where past parishioners worshipped in and prayed for about 20 years.

Way before this on this land our indigenous brothers and sisters walked.  Maybe lit a fire here and told stories.

Our Scriptures tell us of stories of Moses who anointed his brother Aaron with oil, Barnabas the encourager, of Thomas known as the doubter…and of course Jesus the Christ.

The scriptures tell us stories of the past: of people’s relationships with God and their lives together in community. They were worshipers of God and they  prayed.

All these people I have mentioned from the early days of the first people of Australia, to the people worshiping in the two churches on this site, to the many people throughout the scriptures, were pilgrims just as we are today.

Pilgrims. We are all pilgrims on a journey.  A journey towards God and yet we are in God already. This is a journey towards wholeness and of finding ways to live together in harmony.

‘Psalm 133 which we said today (8am) was sung by the choir today (10am) is the 14th of the 15 ‘Songs of Ascents’ in Book Five of the Psalter.

These ‘songs’ were most likely sung by pilgrims as they made their way to Jerusalem to celebrate a number of annual religious festivals, including Passover, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles.’

Let me read the psalm to you again.

“How very good and pleasant it is

when kindred live together in unity!

It is like the precious oil on the head,

running down upon the beard,

on the beard of Aaron,

running down over the collar of his robes.

It is like the dew of Hermon,

which falls on the mountains of Zion.

For there the Lord ordained his blessing,

life for evermore.”   Ps 133

There are two simple images in this psalm: oil and dew which became important symbols for these pilgrims.

‘Oil – from the olive was an important commodity in the dry environment of the ancient Near East.  Olive oil mixed with sweet-smelling spices and was used for hair and skin care.  The oil was poured over the head, and, for men, ran down into the beard.  A basic act of hospitality when visitors entered the homes of others was to wash the visitor’s feet and then  pour soothing and refreshing oil upon their heads.’

So oil was very important back then as it is still today.

‘Dew- was the second image.  Mt Hermon, located some 125miles north of Jerusalem, was known for its abundant dew. And in Palestine, which saw little rainfall between the months of April and October, dew was an important commodity. Without the nightly accumulation of dew, the land would be parched and dry for many months of the year.

In Psalm 133, the dew that soothes and refreshes the land comes down, not on Mt Hermon, but on Mt Zion; and Jerusalem, the centre of worship for ancient Israel, is soothed and refreshed.  It’s a lovely image isn’t it!

I’m not sure if we can imagine the pilgrims singing as they travelled up to Jerusalem.  Maybe if we think of foot soldiers singing ‘keep the home fires burning’ and other songs, or scouts singing as they marched along, we could probably imagine them singing as they travelled together.

These pilgrims were bound together by their covenant with the Lord and who, having come from great distances, would be anticipating with joy standing together in the courts of the temple and sitting down together at the feast table.

These ancient Israelite singers would have remembered that kindred who dwell together in unity were being likened to good oil and dew.

The words of the whole psalm would’ve reminded the people that their family relationship was established not by blood, but by their mutual share in the community of God, a community that received blessing from its God.

In the Christian tradition, Psalm 133 is often used as a text for the observance of the Lord’s Supper, or Eucharist or Holy Communion which calls the whole people of God to a family table where all are welcome.

Most of us are not related to each other, and yet we come looking forward to being with each other as we worship God and share the bread and the wine.  We are bound together by our faith in Jesus Christ.

Today we will use both oil and water in the baptism of Isaac (Freyer and Judd.) The oil we use for baptism is olive oil and balsam and has been blessed by the Archbishop. It is not always used in baptism but I like to use it as it signifies many things: It is used for the anointing of kings, queens, prophets and priests. It is also seen as the sealing of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  You may recall in St Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he indicates that the gifts of the Holy Spirit bring love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self-control. (5:22)  All gifts we all long to have!

Water is obviously one of the essential elements for baptism. And when I reflect on the dew which was so important for the people and the earth, it is a wonderful symbol for the baptised of coming to a new life in Christ.

I spoke earlier that we are all pilgrims.  We are all changing..we are getting older whether we like it or not!   At John Henthorn’s funeral on Friday, it was said he lived in 25 homes!  Now that is an itinerant pilgrim!

With young Isaac, (young Freyer and Judd) we will have the pleasure to watch grow into a little child, a teenager, a young adult…and like others who have grown up here, come back to be married and then to baptise their children and the process hopefully continues, until we come to the ultimate change through death which takes us Christians to a new way of being with God.

We are children of God, pilgrims on a journey together and in communion with God.

So many special events have taken place in this brick building: baptisms, confirmations, weddings, funerals and other occasions we mark on our liturgical calendar.

Today we say goodbye to Elizabeth-Anne Nixon who has added such beautiful music and her gentle, reflective presence to our worship in this brick building.  It is not only our prayers that soak into the brick and the wood but also the music of various instruments including the voices of the choir over the past 100 years. That’s a lot of music and prayer!

EA is another pilgrim.  She has travelled widely and found friendships in many places, including here at St Pauls. Thank you for being with us for this part of our history at St Pauls.

Let our prayers continue to soak into the bricks and wood in this church and in our homes, workplaces and importantly in our hearts to transform us into the likeness of Christ.

May we remember with gratitude all those who have passed through this land, who have been a part of our history through scriptures, our families and friends.

And may we also dwell together in unity being likened to good oil and dew.

The Lord be with you.

Information about Psalm 133 from Nancy deClaisse-Walford commentary-working preacher website.