the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Luke 10. 25-37
We inherit eternal life not by loving god or by loving others,
but by being loved by god and by others!

“Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’” I have to admit, I stopped reading, right then and there. I swiveled my chair around to my computer and searched for that question. Or rather, for that question with a little poetic license. “What must I do to be saved?” I hit enter and within a half second, I received nearly a billion hits. The first one was a website. And there, front and center, was a video. “What must I do to be saved?” And for the next thirty minutes, I watched and I listened. As you might expect, it was all about heaven. Heaven and hell. One verse at a time, the preacher unraveled scripture and rewove it into something I didn’t recognize. Something different. Something new. “What must I do to be saved?” His answer? First, hear. Second, believe. Third, repent. Then, confess and be baptized. In that exact order, of course. But then, after all that, he added that being a Christian was a commitment. And absolute commitment, he said. You had to attend faithfully. Give as you prosper. Worship god. Study, teach, give your all. “But then,” he said, “you must live faithfully for the rest of your life, and you’ll find a home eternally, in heaven.” When the video was, finally, over, I have to tell you, I was exhausted. And swear I could hear Jesus saying, “Come unto me all you that are wary and carrying heavy loads and I’ll give you rest.”

What must I do to inherit eternal life? What must I do to be saved? It sounds so simple and so straightforward. You hear! You believe! You repent! You confess and are baptized! And, apparently, that’s just the beginning! And if that’s the answer, for us? Well, we wouldn’t be here, this morning, doing what we did! Not, at least, here at the font! With Alex! With his parents! His sponsors! Because at this age, Alex can’t do any of that. All he can do is eat … and sleep … and dirty his diapers … and, then, repeat the process! Over and over! Again and again! But that’s not how we answer the question.

There was a transcript to the video that was part of the website. Thirteen pages. Nearly five thousand words. Four thousand eight hundred twenty, to be exact. And out of those four thousand eight hundred twenty words, the word love – the word love – is used – are you ready for this? – is used just two times! Just two times! You must hear and believe and repent and confess and be baptized and, then, live faithfully-ever-after! But apparently, according to, love … love has nothing to do with it! Alex, come back when you get bigger! Come back when you grow up! But until then, for now, you just can’t be a part of the church.

But we don’t believe that! You and I, simply, don’t believe that! And that’s why we baptize babies! That’s why they’re here, with us, Sunday after Sunday! Why they receive the bread as soon as they can eat it. It’s because Luke, chapter eighteen, verses fifteen and sixteen, are such important verses for us …

People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. But Jesus called for them and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them … [Let me, go to them, he says, and don’t get in the way!]

We are here, now, for one reason and for one reason alone. For the one thing hardly mentions. We’re here because of the love! Alex’ baptism is an expression of god’s love for him! Just as our baptisms are expressions of god’s love for us! And it’s impossible for us to talk about anything without talking about that love! We can’t talk about baptism without proclaiming that love! This isn’t about our commitment to god; it’s about god’s commitment to us! It’s not about our devotion to god; it’s about god’s devotion to us! Baptism isn’t, simply, merely, one step in the process of constructing Christians. Just one item on the list of manufacturing church to be checked off.

That’s not how life works! Life is created! It’s conceived! It’s carried within, where it grows, develops, matures, evolves, until it can no longer be held inside. Then it must be born into the world. And the inspiration? The motivation? It isn’t scripture. It isn’t the process, the procedure. It’s the love! It’s, always, the love! Not the love of the creature; but the love of the creator! Not the love of the one born; but the love that comes from the one giving birth!

What must we do to inherit eternal life? What must we do to be saved? The answer is, actually, pretty simple. It doesn’t require five thousand words. It doesn’t take a half an hour. What must we do? Nothing! Nothing, at all! God does everything! Start to finish! Beginning to end! What did Alex have to do, this morning? What did his parents have to accomplish? What did we have to achieve? Nothing whatsoever! God loves us! Love us with all god’s heart! Loves us with all god’s mind! Loves us with all god’s being! We do nothing! Not to earn it! Not to deserve it! Not to begin it! Not, even, to finish it! God does it all! Without our help! Without our permission! God creates us! God saves us! God makes us new! All because god loves us! For no reason, at all!

But then, that’s not what believes. For them, there always has to be a reason. There always has to be an excuse. Something we’ve said. Something we’ve done. What must I do? What must we do? To inherit? To be saved? For some reason, they never see the grace. They never see the charity. They never see the love. But, for some reason, for us, there’s nothing else! We can’t talk about the faith without talking about the love! We can’t talk about baptism without talking about the love! We can’t talk about church without talking all about the love! Not just mentioning it once, or twice. But scores of times! Hundreds of times! Thousands of times!

And this morning, my friends, before our very eyes, that same love claimed Alexander Thomas as its own! Now! Forever! Claimed him as its very own, not because of the water … or the words … but because, you see, that is what grace … what charity … what love … does!