Sunday, May 12, 2019
Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year C
Baptism of Mia Bella
Prayer of the Day
O God of peace, you brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, the great shepherd of the sheep. By the blood of your eternal covenant, make us complete in everything good that we may do your will, and work among us all that is well-pleasing in your sight, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Readings and Psalm
Acts 9:36-43 Peter raises Tabitha/Dorcas from the dead
Revelation 7:9-17 A white-robed multitude sings before the Lamb
John 10:22-30 Jesus promises eternal life to his sheep
Title: Baptism Today! Baptism Every Day!
Alleluia, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
Mia Bella, you picked a great day to get baptized. While getting baptized anytime is a good thing. This day itself has a lot going on in it which, upon reflection, can add meaning to this wonderful sacrament through which God is sealing an eternal promise with you. Now, you are young, so you may not be aware of some of these enriching elements, so allow me to highlight the ones that are resonating for me.
Let’s start with a cultural highlight – It’s Mothers’ Day. Not only is this a wonderful thing that your Mother (and father) are doing for you. Showing you how much they love you and want the best for you as they bring you to the baptismal font. But this Mothers’ Day celebration gives us all a chance to think about our mothering God. Unfortunately, male-dominating, patriarchal societies have created a limited idea of God, and have encourage an image of God as some old man in the clouds, with a long flowing beard. But your baptism today, gives us an opportunity to ponder the fullness of God as our complete parent. That God is not only perfect father, but also perfect mother. Our God is one who creates, who gives birth to all the fullness and diversity of the universe. And just as a mother loves that which she has birthed, so God loves that which God has created. God renews all life. God sustains all life. Mia, you are a cherished child of God. And I pray that you will hold on to this identity as long as you live. Some may try to tell you otherwise. Some will try to limit the grace, mercy, and love of God. The world will not always treat you with the value that God has had, is having, and will always have for you. But none of that diminishes the truth of your identity – cherished child of God. Your heavenly mother/father/parent loves you, claims you in this baptism, and will sustain you forever.
There is another joy-filled holiday present today. We may not be celebrating it but Jesus is. (Now Mia, I know your infant concept of time may find this difficult to grasp; but stay with me here.) In today’s gospel reading, we see that Jesus is visiting Jerusalem during the Festival of the Dedication. We know this Jewish festival better as Hanukkah. It is called the festival of lights. It celebrates God’s liberating power and restoring power. Today, in this water of the font, through the promises that God is making to you and with the presence of the Holy Spirit; the liberating power that we witness in the resurrected Jesus will be yours. You will be restored. And just as Hanukkah is celebrated with the lighting of candles, we will light a candle for you. Symbolizing that as a child of God, you are called to live as a light in the world, beaming your light for all to see that God is alive in you. The love you show to others is an outpouring of the love that God is filling you with each and every day of your life. Even if you feel forsaken, even when you feel God is far away, even when you feel that you do not deserve this restoring love of God. God’s light is shining, always leading you. Leading you back if that is what is necessary. So, Mia, let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good works and glorify your Mother/Father/Parent in heaven.
Now Mia, the next contributor to make this such a perfect day to be baptized may require a little imagination, because all the lilies and flowers that have adorned our sanctuary since Easter day have faded. And, while the flowers may not be able to go the distance, our Easter joy does. And so, in spite of the absence of an abundance of flowers, your baptism is taking place right in the middle of the Easter season. That’s right, it is not just one day, Easter is a whole season. 50 days long. Because a resurrection is just too spectacular of an event to be celebrated on just one day. And your baptism is a sign and a reminder that it is not just Jesus’ resurrection that we are celebrating. In baptism, we are joined to Christ’s death, so that we are joined to his resurrection. (I know I warned you about the concept of time being hard to grasp for your infant brain, well this one is even harder. Any human brain, no matter how old or how smart, has trouble with this one. That’s why we call it a mystery of faith. That’s why we just have to trust God at God’s word.) But when you rise up out of that font, its just like Jesus rising up out of his grave. Yup, Mia, this is your resurrection day. And if anyone ever asks if you are born again, you can speak a confident YES and point to this day, to this font. And I hope you will celebrate every day of your new life by the way you live your life. Just as Jesus lived his life for others, serving, loving, forgiving, feeding, showing compassion, being a friend, welcoming all, so out of this water your are raised up to do the same for others. Oh, believe me, this is not easy. Some people will push you to the very limits. But Jesus tells us to love even our enemies, even those who say they hate you, even those who seek to do you harm. For he did all this himself. Even while dying on the cross. Now, as the one who saves us, Jesus asks us to do the same for others. He changed the world by doing it. You, Mia, and all of us, can change the world by doing the same thing, by living as Jesus did. As so, after your baptism, you will be marked with the cross of Christ – the cross that gives you life, the cross that directs your life.
Mia, you may be sleeping at this point, but let me include one final element that is contributing to this perfect baptismal day. This one is found in the scripture readings for today. For this fourth Sunday of Easter is always unofficially Good Shepherd Sunday. Every year on this Sunday that falls three weeks after Easter Sunday, the image of Jesus the Good Shepherd is emphasized. On this day, we are reminded again that, set in the big picture of salvation and hope, trust and faith, all of us are as helpless as you are now. Like sheep we do not know the way to go, we do not know where to find the food and water that will sustain us. Like sheep in a herd, especially when left unprotected and to their own devices, anxiety spreads like wildfire and causes all kinds of ill feelings and disease. But Mia, the good news in your baptism, is that we are not left alone, we are not abandoned, we are not subject to our own helplessness. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. The perfect shepherd. Not only does he care for the flock in all its diversity, but he even gives his life for the flock. One of the best and most important pictures that Jesus paints of himself as the good shepherd is in the story of the lost sheep. Jesus is the shepherd who will risk all to go and find that one sheep, that lost sheep, that helpless sheep, you Mia, and me. The good shepherd doesn’t wait for us to find our way back. The good shepherd goes out and brings the lost sheep home.
Yes, Mia, today is a great day to be baptized. You are surrounded by your family – the people who love you and want the best for you. You are surrounded by members of your new family – the family of God into which you are being baptized. Symbols and signs of God’s perfect and eternal love are all around: on the calendar, in the readings, in our culture.
And as you grow into this wonderful gift, this most grace-filled sacrament, it is my earnest prayer for you, and everyone who is baptized, that we all see that every day is a great day to be renewed in our baptism, to remind ourselves of all that God is and all that God promises, to be refreshed in these waters of life as children of God, to be reawakened by the call to follow Jesus the first born from the dead, and to be recharged by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Yes, every day is a great baptismal day as we live the good news that…Alleluia! Christ is risen.
The Rev. Mark Erson,