June 19, 2011 Gospel: Matthew 28:16-20 1st Reading: Genesis 1:1-2:4
Psalm 8 2nd Reading: 2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Dear Graycie Angel, today is your baptism day. Today we’re doing what the Gospel tells us to do without delay, baptizing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. I hope you are reminded every Trinity Sunday of your baptism and the way your parents and grandparents wanted you to know you were a child of God and how special you are, that they gave you back to God and to the community of Christ on this day. And I hope you remember it every day—how big God’s love is for you and for all God’s people and the whole Creation.
At this age you probably understand the Holy Trinity as well as any of us. It isn’t always something we can understand. One God, Three persons or functions. I guess it is just our way of saying that God does so much for us. How could we ever put it into words or images? It says that although God lives inside you and each of us, that God is also big and everywhere. When we start church we say what it says in 2 Corinthians today, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the Communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” It is a way of reminding ourselves that God is present with us. We are at church and God is here with us, like a mini roll call, naming the one we can’t see, but certainly experience. Really we could say this kind of thing anywhere, just reminding ourselves that God is with us and calling on all three of God’s names.
How grand is that to know that the grace of Jesus Christ is with us! That’s a lot of grace. No wonder Lutherans are so attached to grace! Grace is in your name, isn’t it—a good reminder of God’s love for you. It is a good reminder of your parents’ love for you. It is a good reminder of the community’s love for you. Grace means loved no matter what. It means forgiven when you make mistakes. It means that you are a gift of grace to us, a reminder of what is good. There may be times when you feel sad or angry, not graceful at all. But your name always stays the same to remind you of how God graces us with love and gifts and talents and hope—how everything is a gift from God. Even when you aren’t feeling particularly graceful, remember who you are, and know that you aren’t alone.
Secondly, we are offered the love of God. How big a love is that? God, in love, created all things, as we hear in the reading from Genesis. God was lonely. God wanted to relate to others. God had a lot of love to give—so God created everything, including you, Graycie. And God continues to create the world and each of us. That is obvious by the way you’re growing and learning. Just like God does, we too, get to love each other. If God created us good and loved us, we shouldn’t disrespect what God made, but instead love each other and treat each other like we’d like to be treated. And that includes this planet that God made. We are to love the animals and the plants, the seas, and the sky and all creation. God is love. We are God’s children, so love is what we’re all about, too.
And finally we’re offered the communion of the Holy Spirit. God didn’t want us to feel alone. God sent us Jesus to go through what we go through and see what it is like to be a toddler in a new situation or a teenager experiencing hormones, or a young man trying to find meaning in life, or an innocent person accused of crimes and sentenced to death, or a misunderstood teacher, or a guy who just wanted a moment’s peace, or a person who loved people so much that he gave of himself without holding back. Whatever you’re experiencing in life, Graycie, God knows what you’re going through and is going through it with you. You aren’t alone. God understands.
And when it was time for Jesus to ascend, he wanted to make sure we knew that we’d still know that God is right here with us. So we get the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we think of the Holy Spirit as God living in our heart. That works to a certain extent. But it is also important to remember that it is when we are together in community that we really experience the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is between people, or between people and nature. It is when we come together that we are strengthened in our faith. We can remind each other of the stories either from the Bible, or that our parents shared with us about their faith, or stories about how our family came through a crisis or worked together to solve a problem, or faced grief and found hope. The Holy Spirit is with us when we gather to worship and try to puzzle out our faith or work through our doubts. It helps us ask questions of ourselves and God. On our own, we might figure some of it out, but isn’t it so much better in community when you know you aren’t the only one asking that question and others with more experience have gone before and can shed some light on the situation—give it some perspective.
The Holy Spirit connects us with God. She connects us with our family. She connects us with our church community. And she connects us with all of Christianity in all times in all places, those who have gone before and those who will come after us. The Holy Spirit is about communion and community.
So now that I’ve explained it all, you are all set for a life of faith, aren’t you? We’ll, I tell you, Graycie, I wish we could give you all the answers. I wish we could hand you a lifetime of faith and that you’d breeze right through. But we all have to admit that most of the time we don’t get it, either. Like the disciples in Matthew, we also doubt. We lose our way. We screw up royally. We’re all just bumbling along together, trusting God to lead our little flock of sheep, feed us, and care for us, etc. There is no one right way to be loving. There is such a thing as cheap grace and people take advantage of one another’s forgiveness. And people in community are not always pleasant to be around. Being a Christian is messy. Being a person is messy. You might like that idea now, but there will be a time when you’d like it to all come together and it won’t. But that isn’t the end of the world. God doesn’t need us to be perfect or to have all the answers, not even the pastor has to! Instead God asks us to trust and to seek and to love and God will make something beautiful of all our messes.
Father’s day is a wonderful day for celebrating the Trinity and having a baptism. Fathers know what it is like to live in the tension, for there not to be any right answers. From what I understand fatherhood and parenthood is partly about taking it as it comes, responding to each situation individually. It seems to be kind of a guess and check system, learning as you go. Knowing yourselves I think helps with parenthood and sometimes make it harder. The deep bond your parents have with each other is helpful—they’ve been through difficult things before and made it through and can bumble their way through the next one, too, and the next and the next. Watch your father, Graycie, and you will learn what it means to have faith and to try and sometimes fail and sometimes succeed, but also to know grace and have the freedom to try again.
In the same way, we can look to God the Father to try to figure out how to respond to our world. We can look to the love, grace, and communion all wrapped up in what God has in that great big diaper bag to lavish on us. Whether it is fatherhood, grandfatherhood, health issues, addiction, employment or lackthereof, family, church, or anything, we are not alone, we are accepted and loved, we are a part of something bigger, and ultimately we can find peace and hope even in the messy, confusing ambiguity that is life.