After a conversation with a friend yesterday, I remembered this sermon I wrote and preached for a class on mystagogical preaching. Mystagogy is an ancient style of preaching that centered around the sacraments and explained them using everyday materials as well as a wealth of biblical metaphors. While it sounds serious, it was also very playful and was used more as instructional than evangelistic. These sermons where heard in the 3-5th century during the time of preparation of baptism. When I thought sacramental as well as playful......why not zombies and baptism?
There are two things in life that I fear. One of them is rational and the other is very irrational. The first fear is of fish, and I think given circumstances that we cannot get into today, it is a completely rational fear. This second fear has nowhere near the level of explanation needed to justify it. It has only entered my life in the last few months and over-takes me in my sleep at times. I am deathly afraid of Zombies. That’s right, zombie’s.
Zombie’s have recently entered pop culture again in may area’s. If anyone here is part of the social networking website Facebook.com, no doubt you have grown tired of invites to play the zombie game. Look at the Zombie movies that have come out in the last few years, even the legendary George Romero (writer and director of “Night of the Living Dead”) has come back into the spotlight by directing and writing Zombie movies again. Max Brooks, son of satirist Mel Brooks, has written a book entitled “The Zombie Survival Guide”, that is listed at #466 overall, and at #1 in satire, #4 in Foreign Languages, and # 15 in Nonfiction education. Brooks goes through everything you need to know in a situation ranging from a level 1 attack, with 1-5 zombies, and level 4, what he calls a zombie apocalypse. Inside the book are instructions to fortifying your home, evading zombie hordes while on the run, setting up a large scale zombie fortress in a prison and finally restarting civilization after the zombies are destroyed. Our society is clearly fascinated with the undead!!!
Growing up Baptist, the only remote liturgical element in baptism was the phrase “Raised from death into the newness of Life”. In the United Methodist Book of Worship there is a phrase “We are Incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation and given new birth through water and the Spirit”. These two phrases are saying the same thing. My Father baptized me, and I remember hearing the words as I came out of the water. I grew up watching him baptize people and recite these words week after week. This is a powerful thing for a young boy to hear, and a powerful thing to see his earthly father participating in. This phrase is said over you and to the entire congregation because there is power in baptism.
When you are baptized you figuratively die and rise again-Just as Christ literally died and rose again. In baptism you are woken up and have the light of Christ shining on you. The night is now gone and our salvation is near to us now, and we cast off the works of darkness and instead have Christ. Through Christ all things have creation and existence.
We are awakened to a new reality through our baptism being placed inside of God’s continuing action, joined with the Church and ultimately being brought into our proper place of loving union with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Where we encounter the problem is with our sin nature.
There is a military term, “being baptized by fire”, meaning that it is only in the action of combat that the skills needed to be a good soldier surface. What could not be taught becomes instinct. One of the parts of this is the “1000 yard stare”, a look in the eyes of the soldier that allows him function in combat at his best, it is a look of intense aggression and scrutiny of elements. Some have a problem with baptism in the Old Testament and say that the non-existence of the act in before Christ negates it’s need to us a Christians today. But I say to you Moses was baptized. He was baptized by fire, by fulfilling his calling to lead Israel out of Egypt. Just as Moses was baptized by fire so was Gideon and his 300, David and his sling, and Jeremiah in the pit. The Holy Spirit descended upon them at the appointed time and gave them the instincts to join with God in his redemption of the world. Think about what the 1000 stare Moses directed at Pharoah and said “Let my people Go”!
After baptism we outwardly do not look any different. John the Revelator tells us that once in the throne room of God we are clothed in pure, white robes. But as you and I walk around on the earth today, we are covered in the ever-flowing sacrificial blood of Christ, and every day as we go to the Triune God we are covered again with a fresh washing of the blood of the lamb. This is more powerful than any system of defense or handheld weapon. When Satan sees us, we resemble the slain lamb and on our forehead is the mark of his suffering, the mark of the cross.
The problem is that many Christians walk around un-dead, zombies in this world and the spiritual world. They have come out of the cleansing water into new birth, but are still captive to their sin, still bound to it. They are no longer standing firm inside of the mysteries. They have stopped coming to Christ, and their covering of sacrificial blood is caking up and flaking off. The cross on their forehead is no longer seen. They go through life stumbling through sin, not knowing why they have the desire to feed on it and why they seem drawn to it. Their 1000 yard stare has been reduced to inches.
But, we have a cure that George Romero could only dream off in his series of movies, and at first glance-it is more bloody than anything man imagined. The constant fountain of grace that flows from Christ, our great high priest who has passed through the heavens and who is the Son of God..... the source of our new life. Come back to your confession. Christ our Lord has been through temptation just like us, and has ultimately and finally defeated Satan. With confidence we come to this fountain and recover ourselves in the blood on a daily basis.
So friends, cover yourselves. Be not afraid of re-awakening to a new life. Our flesh is made alive in the Holy Spirit. Christ came not only by water, but by blood and the Spirit. The Spirit shows us the way to this fountain. Let the Spirit lead you today to the only source, the antidote of a truly awakened life to Christ.
Glory be to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit;
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be