Today, you were baptized. With love and clarity, I hope to tell you about this wonderful and holy mystery called baptism.
Your needs are so simple, and that tells us that our needs, too, are very simple. Some food, some warmth, much love from your parents, family, and Godparents—that’s all it really takes to assure your survival. We sit here with complicated lives, in a web of economics, politics, keeping up appearances, worrying about this and that, but our needs, like your, are relatively simple if we let them: some food, some warmth, much love from those around us. Your simplicity of life is a gift to us, for it helps us return to understanding the real, honest-to-goodness basics of our existence, and to strip away all that unnecessary stuff with which we adorn ourselves, and so, we clear our eyes and hearts and we see better that Kingdom of God that is never far from us. Thank you, Oscar for your simplicity, for it sharpens our vision for what is important.
You are a miracle of no small consequence. You are not a mere mass of protoplasm. You are a miraculous being, unique, in crossword puzzle lingo, a “one-er.” And if you are, then so is each one of us. That is nice to know. When we know our own uniqueness then we are able not only to tolerate but to delight in the uniqueness of others. This morning we proclaim the fact that we and you are alike: you are accepted into full membership in the Body of Christ, and your uniqueness is proclaimed as well—you are the one and only you. This morning you are the apple of our eye; forever, you are the apple of God’s eye.
This may sound like a strange thing to wish for someone on their happy day of baptism, but I wish that for you at some time in your life, you feel unworthy, and in your sensing your unworthiness there will be people around you—someone with you who points you to the Source of the worthiness you do have, because today at your baptism that Source of worthiness, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ gives you something that your parents, try as they might, cannot give you. That Source of worthiness takes his value and gives it to you – to keep, always. “You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.” We say it. God means it.
So, Oscar, when who you want to be seems to be different from who you are taken to be and how you are treated, grab your prayer book or your baptismal certificate or a Godparent or go to some other source that knows what this baptizing is all about and remember that on this day, a voice came down from heaven through the People of God here known as St. David’s Episcopal Church in Kinnelon, New Jersey, and through the ancient liturgy and that voice, spoke not your social security number or ethnic heritage or the number on your soccer jersey or the place of your birth. Instead, that voice spoke your name, Oscar Prescott—beloved of God—inheritor of the kingdom of heaven—the one, the only.
Baptism says you do not have to be right all the time. In it God addresses your failings and your hurts. His message to you is that here in the Body of Christ you will find help in loving yourself through it all, to look beyond and right through those failures to that precious creature named Oscar Prescott. The waters of Baptism cleanses you of those failures, gives you the grace to persevere. The sign of the Cross on your forehead heals you of those hurts, transforms them; helps you to grow through them. No matter what, God is going to go on loving you just the same, and we are going to stick with you as well, whether you are right or wrong because that is just what the Body of Christ does. God is happy to provide a lot of different ways to walk, a lot of different directions in which to go on your journey of faith. That same God promises to be there to meet you all along the way. You have us to remind you of that when the way is desolate, dark and dreary. We will ask you to be that light of Christ for us from time to time as well. For that is what a member does who has joined the Body of Christ.
Today, All Saints’ Sunday, we remember some people like you who were born into families, who changed the nature of those families, and who caused those families to function in a different way. We remember those people whose names would be familiar in any church anywhere, names like Peter and Paul, Mary and Martha, Augustine and Monnica, his mother. And we remember by name some other people, perhaps not so familiar to the greater Church, the names of people who in the past year have died and were buried from this church. These people were dear to us, important to us, and had an impact on our lives. The simple fact of a social relationship is not why we remember them. This morning we remember them because they, like you, were baptized into the greater family of Christ’s Body and made it something new and different and more faithful. Their presence and personhood beamed with the light of Christ and by it we were able to see and know God’s presence among us.
And so, our dear, dear, new baby brother in Christ, as God has through the years changed us by means of some members of the greater Church family, so does he change us through you. With your baptism here today we will never be the same nor will you. As we see your parents entrusting you to God, it makes it a little easier for us to again entrust to God those we love who died. Isn’t it amazing that you have just barely arrived on this earth and already we are better for it!
The Rev. David J. DeSmith, Baptismal Presider and Rector
And all your brothers and sisters in Christ here at
St. David’s Episcopal Church in Kinnelon, New Jersey