By Mother Rebecca
This past Sunday while most of us were participating in online worship, sheltering at home from the snow (or frolicking in it), I had the honor of presiding at the baptism of Brynn Charlotte. She and I gathered with a congregation of ten others (family, sponsors, and some dedicated members of our altar guild) and began with the familiar words:
There is one Body and one Spirit;
There is one hope in God’s call to us;
One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism;
One God and Father of all.
There is one hope in God’s call to us.
Hope. That’s the feeling I talked about in my sermon last week. Every January, I’m filled with hope for the future. Hope can look like walking away from old habits and behaviors that no longer benefit us, it can look like new beginnings. It can look like a baptism of a beautiful baby girl on a wintry morning too cold to gather outside for the weekly worship on the heels of a turbulent week in our nation’s history.
Our service was special in so many ways. Brynn’s maternal grandmother, Kristen Lowe, was the first to arrive, greeting me at the door with effusive joy. She herself was baptized at Transfiguration by Fr. Niles 55 years ago. She proudly showed me the candle he’d given her that day. As we waited for other family and sponsors to arrive, she wandered through the “new” building, delighted to be at home in the church where she grew up.
Baby Brynn was right at home as well, cooing and laughing throughout the readings and sermon. Just as her parents and sponsors had gathered at the front of the nave to present her, she broke down. Though we pressed on through a couple of the presentation questions, Brynn wanted nothing to do with it. Turned out, she had a messy diaper and needed a quick change. I’ve never stopped a service before for a diaper change, but let me warn you that I might happily do so again – the effect was so positive!
The early Christians were baptized in the nude, I explained during the diaper break (men and women separated for modesty). As they came up out of the water, they were robed in white as a sign of having been washed clean of the stain of sin. As Brynn returned, freshly washed of the stain of – well, you know what – the long-expected snow began falling in earnest. Large, fluffy flakes fell from the sky, and all of us inside marveled how it felt a little like heaven itself wrapping her symbolically in white.
There is one hope in God’s call to us.
Hope was alive and well on all our faces and in our hearts this past Sunday. How I wish you could’ve been there to see it – to share it! Hope in the midst of so much sickness, political unrest, and division in our nation.
It’s no wonder Ephraim Radner describes baptism as a sacrament of hope. He calls baptism “a hope that is strong enough to break down despair, threaten governments, upend chaos, [and] bring new life.” He goes on to describe that hope, “is what we are doing when we get baptized ourselves or bring our children into baptism’s embrace. We are entering into and being seized by hope. An almost desperate hope, given what the world is actually like, and what we often face. But also a joyful, wondering and wondrous hope, just because of that; frightening and creative at the same time. To hope in the possibility of something new coming ‘from nothing,’ as it were, is to indicate where this kind of hope is founded: the very life and act of God, who, after all, ‘creates from nothing.’”
Radner continues: “If God enters our hoping—this reaching out to God in baptism, this hoping for God himself—what is happening? Is not the very thing we are reaching towards now given in our reaching itself? In desiring God, have we not already been given God? What we have here is a certain kind of ‘closeness’; indeed the strange closeness that explodes into life itself…Jesus is baptized. That means that the deepest thing we hope for is given already.”
This Sunday, we begin an Epiphany-tide formation series we’re calling “God in Man Made Manifest.” Fr. Michael Merriman will lead us in a reflection on Jesus’ baptism and the hope it brings us. I hope you’ll join us for worship and for this class.
I’ll see you Sunday!