In the name of God, father of mercy, compassionate Son, spirit of wisdom.
I was baptized twice: the second time during college at the beach off the Santa Cruz Boardwalk – because I did not remember my first baptism, and it seemed to me to have been only a family obligation. I’ve never met my godparents, from my first baptism as an infant – though I saw their writing only last year, on a letter to my mother. Also, I thought baptism was about me – and my decision for Christ. What I’ve learned since, and been reminded of in the lessons for today – and their interpretation by Barbara Crafton, John Stendahl, Barbara Lundblad, and others – is that baptism is not about me, that my life begins and ends in a community greater than any I could see – perhaps larger than any of us understood on that cold February beach, or at the backyard family gathering in southern California when my great grandfather Harvey Leech baptized me all those years before.
In southern California, in Long Beach, in front of the high school that my mother and grandmother, and Deacon Campbell’s sisters, attended, is an archway bearing the motto, “Enter to learn, go forth to serve.” We have a similar admonition at the end of our service bulletin: “Now that the worship is over, our Christian service to the world begins.”
This is the cycle, the daily or weekly round, of Christian life, for so many of us – a weeklong striving in the world followed by refreshment in prayer and sacrament, retooling in word and worship, on Sunday. But all this takes place within a larger cycle, the cycle of life that begins with Baptism and ends when we meet our savior face to face.
(Indeed, this all takes place within a larger circle yet, the circle that will not be broken, of saint past and present and future, all in a round dance around the Deity.)
At baptism the waters close over our faces like death to the world – and we emerge to new life in the Son and Breath given by God. Before baptism is a calling – to a mission or vocation or a specific work – it is a Naming. While he was praying, Jesus heard the voice of God: “You are my Son, my Beloved, my Delight”—my Joy.
This joy of God in us remains in us throughout our lives, as we ride round those weekly wheels of work and worship—those yearly cycles of Easter and Pentecost and Christmas, till at the end all worldly toil drops away and we become once more only what we always were to God: my Joy, my Beloved, my Delight.
7 January 2007
Sacramento: Trinity Cathedral