Burials and Baptisms

A Sunday reflection for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost.
The lectionary readings are here.

In July, we’ve had two funerals and today we end this month with the baptism of a precious two-year old. Not an extraordinary set of events at a church, and yet these occasions are the times we pause and look at life, lives lived out in this world of God’s creation, a creation both beautiful and dangerous, ordered and not tamed; life lived in the balance of joy and sorrow.

At each of the funerals as folks talked about the person who had died, not one thing was said about what they owned or the power they had over others or even who would inherit what. They spoke of character and love and integrity, faith and kindness and giving; they spoke of wanting to be like them.

In the Baptismal service, the parents and god-parents of this precious child promise to raise her, with God’s help and in the context of our Christian community, to be like Jesus. And we promise that we will do all that we can to help them. Together we all promise, with God’s help, to continue in the apostles’ teaching & fellowship, in the breaking of bread, & in the prayers; to persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever we fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord; to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ; to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourself; and to strive for justice & peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being (from the Book of Common Prayer).

In my faith tradition, baptism is the full initiation into the Body of Christ, living and active in this world, on earth as it is in heaven. It is the outward sign of God’s grace – the freely given gift of love and compassion to everyone. Being a part of the Body is a relationship with the One who created all of us in love, for love, and to love. Following Jesus isn’t about getting what I want or about being in some elite group, it is about living in loving community seeking the wisdom from Jesus’ teachings to love God and our neighbor and ourselves better and better as we journey together. Following Jesus is about letting God’s image within us shine into the struggles and the joys of this life.

When I talk with the parents and god-parents of children about to be baptized, after going over what they will promise on behalf of the child, I simply put it this way: we are all going to work together to help her love like Jesus loves so we can all be more like him.

We follow Jesus to learn how to be like him. So much of history since Jesus and the first of his disciples walked about in First Century Palestine has taken the easier path – to look to Jesus for the answers we want in order to justify our own behavior, just as the man in our Gospel reading does: Jesus, tell my brother to do what I want.

And Jesus, true to who he is, turns the question back to the man with a parable about a rich man who hoarded all he had for himself only to discover that upon his death all he had served no real purpose. In the framework of baptism and burial, we can see clearly that the purpose of our life is to follow Jesus in the Way of Love, living together in community so that we all flourish and thrive. This is what we are created for. This is the key to living our ordinary lives extraordinarily. Amen.

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