David A. Davis
May 9, 2021
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To Lily (and all the baptized),
I baptized you today Lily and it is, it is astounding in every way. You’re not the first baby I have held this week. That would be our granddaughter Franny. But you are the first baby I have held and baptized in a really long time. So, thank you, Lily. Your baptism has brought your family together again after a really long time. And as I baptized you, there were family members participating from Germany. And there were members of our church family participating from all around, here in the sanctuary, in their homes all through our community, miles and miles away in other cities and states, and others just like your aunt and uncle from other countries. And they were asked “Will you, the people of the church, promise to tell Sicily Cora the good news of the gospel, to help her know all that Christ commands, and by your fellowship, to strengthen her family ties with the household of God?” And the answer “we will” echoed around the world. That’s astounding.
But to be honest, Lily, every baptism is astounding whether it’s the first one in far too long or one that brings people together in a virtual way from all over. Whether we’re baptizing an infant, or an older child, or a member of the Confirmation Class, or a college student, or an adult as old as your parents, it’s a remarkable experience. Whether the baptism is an infant in arms, or a child who is tall enough to just about rest her head on the fount like when I baptized Libby months ago, or someone older kneeling at the fount, it leaves the rest of us just about speechless. Gathered at this fount where so many before you have been, knowing that Jesus promises to meet us when we gather here, splashing again in the life-giving water of God’s grace, and remembering, signifying, proclaiming our life forever in the arms of God. Yes, speechless.
I know you won’t remember today. Baptized infants aren’t going to remember. You aren’t going to remember that it was only your family here in the sanctuary or that we were wearing masks, or the look of joy and unconditional love in the eyes of your parents. You won’t remember but I wonder in all the mystery of God whether you have some awareness. I watched my own children when they were your age and every parent learns that even the youngest know how to get their own way, get what they need from their parents. I know there is something going on inside tiny, little you. So, I wonder. I also know about God’s love, and God’s grace, and God’s presence here at the fount. I don’t understand it. I can’t explain it. I believe it. I have felt it. I have seen it. So, no I wouldn’t be surprised. I really wouldn’t. If somehow you could look up and tell me something of what is going on. Tell me that there in your little heart you are comfortably resting and abiding in the love of God. The one who created you. Abiding in the love of God. It’s such a gift. It’s…astounding.
Part of what we are all told, Lily, is to remember our own baptism as be baptize you. Like you, many of us cannot remember our actual baptism. Whether we can remember the experience or not, what we all remember is that God’s grace is new for us every day. Sort of like we get baptized by God’s love, grace, and spirit every day! God welcomes each one of us. Some of the stories of the bible tell about people being surprised, astonished, astounded that God’s touch, God’s reach, God’s spirit fell on others who might be different. It happens over and over, pretty much since the bible days, that people worry about God including people, inviting people, sprinkling people with grace that some think don’t deserve it or should be kept out of the “in crowd”. But what we celebrate when we remember baptism is that just as astounding as God’s love and grace falling upon others in unexpected ways, falling upon even them, is that God’s love and grace falls even on us. Even on you, little child. Right now as you can do nothing to ask or earn or deserve or reach for God’s love. And here you are, a child of God, bathing afresh in the promise that Jesus pours out for you. God’s unconditional love for even us, even you. “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing” some one the name of the Holy One whose first touch of grace is unstoppable and boundary shattering and reaches as far as the east is from the west.
Yes, we welcome you, precious one, to this rather mundane, scraggly looking, motley collection of people who have splashed and tasted and lived into God’s promises. We’re not perfect and it’s actually true, the church is full of hypocrites like so many say. We’re no better, no holier, no closer to God than the folks who closed the local pub last night. In fact, a few of us might have been there. It’s just that we gather here, we come together here, we are called here because we have experienced the goodness of the Lord and we want to tell it. We’ve been grabbed by God’s grace and we want to lean into it. We’ve caught a glimpse of the kingdom God intends and we want to work toward it. We’ve tasted our salvation. God has called each of us by name. It’s that gift again. Astounding.
Before you were born, your parents expressed gratitude for this broken vessel that we know to be the congregation of Nassau Church. They recorded a video that was part of worship. You heard it because your mom was carrying you inside. They told us how much they were looking forward to raising you among us and having us help you to learn about Jesus. You were only days old in our zoom fellowship when members of the congregation sang “Jesus Loves You” as your parents held you up to our screens. Your parents and those who were on that call that morning, we will never let you forget that moment. We were answering the baptismal question before you were baptized. So yes, we will teach you some more songs. And we will tell you about Noah and Abraham and Sarah and Hagar and Ishmael and Isaac and Rebekah and Esau and Jacob and Leah and Rachel and Moses and Deborah and Ruth and David and Elijah, and Amos, and Micah. We will tell you about Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and Mary and Joseph, and the disciples and the Samaritan woman, and the women at the empty tomb and the Apostle Paul and Stephen and the eunuch and Cornelius and Lydia. And we are going to tell you about Jesus. Oh my, are we going to tell you about Jesus!
Jesus and his teaching. Jesus and his example. Jesus and his promise. Jesus and his love. Jesus and forgiveness. Sorry about the water on your head today. What I mean to say is sorry if I startled you. I can’t really say sorry for the water. I tried to keep it warm and keep it out of your eyes. But the water is the sign. It is the sign of being washed in the love and forgiveness of Christ. Baptism for the forgiveness of sins, we call it. No, you haven’t done anything wrong. Yes, you’re only a baby. This forgiveness, this grace, it is for all of your life to come. You are baptized once, but it is not all at once. God’s forgiveness will go with you all the days of your life. It’s the once and future and forever promise of Jesus that we celebrate in baptism
The very promise of God is front and center today. Between you and me, Lily, that’s not a great sermon to preach. That you are not actually the center of attention this morning. That God is, God and our life in Christ. Many ministers like me walk around with a newly baptized baby to introduce the child to the congregation. Sometimes we get a bit carried away with the “cute and cuddliness of it all”. No offense, you are very cute and cuddly! But God’s love is even greater. And God knows not all babies are wanted, not all children are loved, not all kids are healthy, and not every couple can have children. And God’s love and grace and spirit pours out on all of them too! God’s love is even greater. God’s love is always greater. It is God’s love that is astounding.
Something happened today among us, Lily. Not just you and me but among each of us, all of us present in person and online. Something happened. We call it the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit happened. As we gathered, as we prayed, as your folks affirmed, as the congregation promised, as we blessed and poured and sprinkled. The Holy Spirit is present. Not just the water. Not just because I’m a minister. But in all of it. Something happened. Again, it’s mostly a mystery to me but I believe we all experienced the Holy Spirit this morning. And you experienced and received the Holy Spirit by the grace of God. It is magic? No. Is it a guarantee of your health and safety? I wish is was. Is it something we can touch and see and define and examine and prove? No, the life of faith is never like that. It’s never that easy.
The Holy Spirit has marked you for lie. No, the Holy Spirit has marked you forever, Lily. With a stronger bond than the love that will tie you to your best friend. With a deeper knot that the first love that will steal your heart. With a more constant presence than the no questions ask devotion of your grandparents. And dare I say it, and as hard as it is to believe, with a mark more indelible than the indescribable love your parents have for you. The Holy Spirt has marked you forever.
And the mark? The mark says “I belong to Jesus and Jesus will love me forever no mater what.” And that mark shall never be erased. Never. That’s the gift. That’s the center of attention. That’s the celebration. That’s the party.
I wish I had kept track of how many baptisms I have celebrated all these years Lily, but I didn’t. So, I don’t know what number to give you. Sicily Cora Flood, # 415. It doesn’t matter. I can remember the first baby I baptized. He is now long a grown man. And I can tell you how I felt that Sunday morning 35 years ago. I was astounded. So the truth is, Lily, this morning baptizing you? It is like baptizing someone for the very first time. Because the love of God, the grace of God, the Holy Spirit of God falling a fresh on you and on us and even on me, it is always astounding.
May God bless you and keep you, forever Lily. You and all the baptized and every single child of God.
Your astounded Pastor