Lent 4 Text: Psalm 73
Celebrating the baptism of Daphne Jane
Fourth Sunday of Lent
March 26, 2017
It will be some years before you read this letter for yourself, but I wanted to write to you now while this day of your baptism is still fresh, so that even after the water we splashed over you has long since dried, you could know something about this amazing day in your life.
Your Mum and Dad have been looking forward to this day for months now. And not just your Mum and Dad. Their dear friends, Erin and Matthew and Katie, have travelled all the way from Ontario so they could be right here with you and for you. And from closer by, your Grandma and Auntie Theresa and Uncle Jason, your cousins Nora and Evelyn, they wouldn’t miss being here either.
And then there is this congregation of James Bay United Church that has welcomed you today -- this body made up of all kinds of people who together, in some mysterious, surprising way, make a dwelling place for God … a place where God can be found … where God is alive and at work and at play in and through the lives of these ordinary people.
Daphne, this community that welcomes you is one of the many ways that God, who is invisible, shows up, and actually touches the world with love … touches you with love.
As a community gathered in Jesus’ name, that is our calling … to, in a thousand different ways, make a way for God’s dream to come true -- where everyone has enough, and everyone is safe, and everyone knows they are loved. It’s a beautiful calling. It’s an amazing thing to be about together. And -- it’s not always easy.
In fact today, on this day of your baptism, we read a Psalm together, a passage from the bible, in which someone is talking about just that. Here is this person doing their best to live in God’s way. But looking around, what does she see? All these people who don’t give a care about others, who are even wicked to others … even violent toward others. And yet here they are living in such ease … not worried about anything, not a care in the world, piling up riches, pampered and overfed. “What’s the point?” this person is asking. “Living in God’s way, where has it gotten me? Why should I even try? If anything, opening my heart to others, it has caused me more grief.”
Maybe by the time you read this Daphne, you will have discovered for yourself that life sometimes just isn’t fair. And maybe you’ll be having your own conversations with God ... laying it out like this person in the Psalm … telling it like it is. That’s what the people of God have been doing for thousands of years. And what we discover, when we listen in on their conversations like we do when we read the Psalms, is that it’s okay to be puzzled and frustrated and angry with God, even at God.
Not only is it okay. Often it’s the best thing we could do.
Like in this Psalm that we read today, not only was that person becoming more and more bitter. He was exhausting himself trying to figure it out -- how it can be that the bad guys get ahead, while for all his holy living, there seems no reward. He was exhausting himself until he entered God’s sanctuary …that place where the stories of God’s way are remembered, where hope resides, where Wisdom whispers. It is there that this person begins to see more clearly … how in the end those big advantages enjoyed by the others aren’t all they appear to be.
Not only that, but there in God’s sanctuary, she finds herself somehow experiencing God’s own presence … and nothing else, she realizes, compares with the goodness of that! Nothing!
It’s kind of miraculous what happens, isn’t it -- how the bitterness fades, making room instead for gratefulness! a whole new kind of energy for living. That’s the way God works in us … to bring us into a new place, beyond where we’ve been … beyond where we could ever imagine finding ourselves.
Daphne, today you have been baptized into a community in which not only do we re-visit these stories in scripture, and repeat these ancient prayers. In this community, and in Christian communities all around the world, are people who themselves have known these experiences of God’s presence … experiences of God’s grace … where we have been delivered, restored, re-energized for life.
Today through your baptism you have entered God’s sanctuary … a living sanctuary … where God may be found. And Daphne, it’s even more wondrous than that. Today through your baptism you have become part of that living sanctuary. In baptizing you today, we prayed that the power of Holy Spirit would be at work within you. And before we prayed that, we anointed you with oil, tracing the sign of the cross on your forehead, a sign that you are claimed as Christ’s own, forever!
The cross is a very powerful sign … you could spend your whole life discovering more and more what that means for you and our world. For followers of Jesus, it is a sign of God’s love … a love so powerful that nothing in all the world can stop it or destroy it. It’s a sign that has given courage and hope to millions of followers of Jesus. It tells us that in every circumstance, no matter how difficult or unfair, God is there, already there, powerfully at work to bring healing, forgiveness, new life. The cross that once was a sign of terrible defeat has become a sign of the victory of God’s love.
You know Daphne, in a very beautiful way, that sign ‘becomes you.’ For just last week as I was thinking about your baptism, I discovered that your name “Daphne” in the Hebrew language, means victory! So later today and in all the years to come when you won’t be able to see that oily cross on your forehead, your very name can remind you of God’s powerful love that is always with you! That doesn’t mean that life will always be fair or easy for you … that you will always win. There’s a big difference between winning and victory. Winning is all about not losing. But victory is different. Somehow victory comes by way of loss. It’s hard to explain … but you’ll know it when you see it. You’ll taste it when you live it. Just like the person in that Psalm … just like Jesus who lost everything and yet was victorious. It’s what happens when we release ourselves into God’s love … we make room for the Holy Spirit to be powerfully at work in us for the sake of life -- our own life and the lives of others. That’s victory for you!
Daphne, today we have promised to uphold you in our care and in our prayer, that you might know God’s steadfast love for you your whole life long, whatever comes your way. Along with that, I want to pass along another gift of the Church to you … these words that many of us have memorized so that it is always there for us to draw on … to remind us … to re-orient us … to help us find our way into the presence of God, whose goodness in the end is everything …our refuge and our strength. These words … we call it “A New Creed.”
Daphne, this day -- and all the way-- may you be at home in God’s love, and may God’s love be at home in you.
With love and all the blessings of the Spirit,
A New Creed
We are not alone,
we live in God’s world.
We believe in God:
who has created and is creating,
who has come in Jesus
the Word made flesh
to reconcile and make new.
who works in us and others by the Spirit.
We trust in God.
We are called to be the Church:
to celebrate God’s presence,
to live with respect in creation,
to love and serve others,
to seek justice and resist evil,
to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen
our judge and our hope.
In life, in death, in life beyond death,
God is with us.
We are not alone.
Thanks be to God.