Kenora Pentecost + 4 Trinity + 3 – Proper 12
St. Alban (tsfr)
20 June 2021
Saving God, enter the flood and storm of chaos and confusion and speak peace to our fearful hearts, so that we might find our faith in him whose word brings rest to all creation; through Jesus Christ, Lord of wind and wave. Amen.
Which comes first: the chicken or the egg? The faith? Or the baptism?
Now, jokes will address the chicken or the egg question until we run out of ideas, almost as long as we’ve contemplated why the chicken crosses the road.
I’ve even had some fun with it, myself, when the road between Flin Flon and The Pas, in northern Manitoba passes both Egg Lake and Goose Lake.
So, that instance, it would depend on which way you’re going as to which comes first, the goose? Or the egg?
I also know that the thought regarding baptism, when I was growing up was to baptize the children of our lives as quickly as possible after birth. I know that I was baptized literally six weeks, to the day, after I was born.
And, in all of the baptismal planning conversations, it is still reiterated, stated as plainly as possible, that the promises made in baptism by the family, and by the sponsors before God, remind us to raise the child in an atmosphere, in a lifestyle of living out a life lived in faith, including the idea coming to church as a regular faith practice.
In some cases, the children baptized may not even be aware of their participation in the Christian family, yet in other circumstances because they were so young.
On the other hand, I’ve had great conversations with people who found a life of faith, and a life lived out in the body of the church, before they experienced the act, the sacrament of baptism.
What comes first the chicken or the egg? The faith, or the baptism?
Today we celebrate St. Alban.
Alban, was a Roman soldier, in the third century, and a pagan in Britannia, what we now call England. He gave refute to a persecuted Christian priest, and he was intrigued when he saw the man at his daily prayers. So he asked him about his faith.
We’re told that it was during this conversation that Alban converted to Christianity, and when the soldiers came for the priest, Alban took his cloak and took his place.
Naturally, the ruse was discovered by the Roman governor, and Alban refused to either recant his newfound faith by offering sacrifice to the Roman gods, or to give up the priest.
Alban was condemned and beheaded, and history counts his beheading as his baptism.
In Alban’s case, the faith came before the baptism.
So, today we celebrate this one man, who in the third century, when Christianity was still the new faith on the block, allowed the Holy Spirit to enter his heart, and to save a life.
We celebrate the moving of the Holy Spirit that leads us in directions that only God can see the ending, and yet leads us, through our actions to continue to share the kingdom of God with all those who are around us.
We celebrate the moving of the Holy Spirit that we actually are able to wonder which came first: the chicken or the egg?
But instead of continuing this ponder, because we know that with God all things are possible, lets, instead, marvel in the gift, the ability that we each possess, to share one’s faith, with those who are searching for answers, those who are searching for God, but might not yet be aware of the need in their own lives.
This isn’t just something from the third century, but instead it exists throughout our history. It’s been a part of our lives since Jesus rose from the dead, and especially since the Apostles began to share their faith in all directions from Jerusalem out into the wider world.
Just think of it, Paul, under arrest by Romans, continued to spread the faith, the love of God, among the Gentiles throughout the Roman Empire, and had all faith that he would be released, in Rome, to be able to continue his journey west through Spain.
Then there is Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch, where the Holy Spirit connected the two, so that Philip was able to share his faith, to inform the questing faith of the Ethiopian about who it was he was truly seeking, and to accept his offer to be baptized in water found by the side of the road.
The Ethiopian was reading the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah, and “34 the eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. 36 As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:34-36)
But it all starts with our curiosity.
It starts with our desire to know more about God, and about what God has and continues to do to, in, through, and for each of our lives, still today, and through tomorrow.
It begins with our seeking. We look for ways to connect with God, with the divine with those who live lives of faith, in the world and through the world.
It is led by the Holy Spirit in all instances, and it means that we are willing to not only hear, but to follow where we’re led. And trust me, it’s a grand adventure.
Matthew reminds us: “40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” (Mt 10:40)
Looking at Alban’s brief history, we see that he was curious, that he was seeking, and that he was prodded by the Holy Spirit.
We see that he welcomed the priest, whose name we never learn, and so welcomed the Holy Trinity into his life, in the same way we see with Philip and the Ethiopian.
But these aren’t the only stories. We are able to continue to refer to the stories of the bible, but so much more than that we are able to look to family members who came before us.
After all, what was the faith the trust in God and the daring that it took for our family members to come to Canada to start a new life? And each one of them brought an active faith life with them and give us this .
How many of us are able to look back at the steps of our lives and see where others have heard our stories of faith, and so made decisions to follow in the same direction in their own lives?
How many of us, have been, likewise, inspired by friends, family, or even people who became family and friends to walk more closely in the life of a Christian, in the light of Christ?
What came first, the chicken or the egg?
Matthew reminds us: “40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous;” (Mt 10:40-41)
Jesus himself reminds us that we are more than we appear, that we are in fact ambassadors of God, that we are the body of Christ in the world, but it still begins with each one of us.
Alban’s journey started with his curiosity. A curiosity that was fueled by the faith of the man, who when persecuted continued unstintingly in the living out of his faith.
Then, we see that faith was displayed when he willingly took the priests place and he remained firm in that profession of faith even when faced with death.
It’s such a short tale that we have of Alban, yet at the same time, his faith has spoken to us across the centuries.
At the same time, his example, as brief as it is, is so profound.
In his case, in the question of what comes first, the faith or the baptism, we find that faith precedes, that it informs, and it gives the strength needed to last throughout the centuries, and into tomorrow.