3/11/2015 sermon “Passing the baton”

Preacher: Jo J. Belser
Location: Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, Alexandria, Virginia
Text: Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 5-9 and Psalm 78:1-6
Lessons of the Day

“Passing the Baton”

I had occasion this week to look up the history of relay racing. I learned that, as a sport, the relay race goes back to the first Olympics in 776 BCE. Thanks to Wikipedia, I learned that the sport developed from the need to share important information between and among distant villages. In this way the relay race was the original “smart phone.” I learned that the more important the message, the more runners were used, to ensure that the message was successfully shared.

The original baton in the relay race wasn’t a stick passed from one person to another. Instead, the original “baton” was the information that needed to be shared and acted upon over distance.

We Christians, and the Jews before us, have been successfully passing THIS baton—the baton of our faith—for over four millennia. And our lessons tonight tell us exactly how to pass THIS information on.

Our Old Testament lesson tells us that FIRST we, ourselves, have to learn and obey the Word of God. Doing so is a requirement for eternal life, to enter and occupy the land that the Lord, the God of our ancestors, is giving us. The passage warns us to not change anything; no additions, no deletions, but to share exactly what we have ourselves been given. Our Old Testament lesson then instructs us to make what we know about God and God’s Law to our children and our children’s children.

Our Psalm also speaks to us about how to share our faith. Psalm 78, verse 6 says our legacy of faith is passed through our relationships, while verses 1-4 say that we are to share our faith by telling stories about our faith and about our lives of faith.

This sounds a whole lot like what Dr. Mercer told us last week about how to share our faith with our grandchildren: spend time with them, love them, and tell them stories about what se know. The thing is, we are to be grandparents to all children, when it comes to our faith.

Our Psalm specifically says that we should use parable and to not neglect the “dark stories of old.” Parables are a powerful teaching tool, and the “dark stories” prepare us for the times of testing that are surely coming.

Verse 7 of our Psalm tonight asks pointedly, what is your legacy? Who will you share your God-story with?

I learned this week in my study of relay racing, that during the 2008 Olympics both the men’s and women’s relay teams dropped the baton. Their race was over, without opportunity for handing over what they had been given. If WE drop the baton of the faith that we have been given, how will those who come after us know what we know and have experienced of God?

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