Monday, July 30, 2007

Branded, Bathed and Claimed

We had a baptism at Mount Vernon Place yesterday morning. When we gathered for worship yesterday, we welcomed a new family into the midst of our congregation and a precious child into the household of God.
Out of all of the events a pastor gets to participate in or provide leadership for, baptisms are my favorite. Allowing water to touch the head of an adult or a child as I say the words, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" sends chills up and down my spine every time. Each time I participate in a baptism, I realize again that I am not worthy of being a pastor. Every time I ask God to pour forth the Holy Spirit upon the water for baptism or upon the bread and the juice for the Eucharist, I realize that there is this extraordinary power that has nothing to do with me - but that somehow, I get to share the power. What a blessing.

I love participating in a baptism! Baptisms remind me of the newness of life that is possible for all of us through Christ. Through baptism we are incorporated into God's mighty acts of salvation and receive a portion of our inheritance as children of God. And, all of this is a gift - a gift offered to us without price. There is nothing we can do to make ourselves worthy of being cleansed of our sin. There is no amount of money that we can pay for membership in Christ's Kingdom. We are all welcome -- branded, bathed and claimed -- regardless of who we are, what we have done, or what we have left undone.

But there is something else I love about a baptism. At a baptism, the entire congregation promises to help raise the child. The entire congregation vows to tell the child the stories of Jesus. We all promise to life a live that demonstrates to others what it looks like to love God and neighbor. We promise to always welcome the child home - to be there for the child when life seems uncertain, when he is doubting his faith, or when he needs to be loved and accepted just as he is.

And through all of this -- I am able to remember my baptism and to be thankful. What a precious gift.

Thank you, God, for Ryan and his family - the newest members of Mount Vernon Place. May we tell them the stories of Jesus - not only with our words but with our actions. May we be the family he needs to support him, love him and encourage him in this journey called life. May we respond to the grace you lavish upon us each day by becoming the people you have called us to be. What a privilege. Amen.

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