Text: Galatians 3:23-29
Margaret, today we, the whole congregation of Fort Garry United Church, together with your loving family are celebrating your baptism. It’s a big day for you, and God is smiling on you. You will know how significant today is, and you will treasure this very moment as time goes by. One day you will take a moment to look back on this day, and you will realize that you were surrounded by lots of love.
Your baptism candle will remind you of the light within you. Remember to let it shine, and make the world around you a brighter place with your light. It’s from God, and nobody can take it away from you. Let it guide you, and let it inspire others.
Your baptism shawl will remind you of the warmth of God’s love. It’s always available for you. Though you may not always feel, it surrounds you all the time. Remember to open yourself up to that love. Learn to receive it, and pass it on to whoever needs it or forgets about it. That’s easier said than done. Sometimes things don’t turn out the way we want. Unexpected things happen to anyone at anytime. Sometimes our lives are disturbed or even interrupted by circumstances. But don’t be afraid, Margaret. Rely on God’s love especially in times of trouble. Know that you are never alone. God is always with you, and will provide you with what you need.
It is a great mystery that power is made perfect in weakness. We try very hard to be strong, powerful and independent as if everything depends on us. In reality, however, we are totally interdependent. We are because you are. You are because we are. So we must make room in our hearts for one another. We must make room for God, who loves making something new with and through us.
Today God is creating something beautiful with us. In baptism we know that we are fully accepted, loved and understood as children of God. It is God’s “yes” to us. We hear God’s voice saying “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.” (Jeremiah 1:5) We also hear the same voice from heaven that spoke to Jesus when he was baptized in the Jordan River, “You are my own dear child; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11) We respond to the voice by saying “yes” to God, acknowledging the great love which is deeper than anyone can ever imagine, and wider than the prairie sky. I pray that throughout your life, Margaret, you will hear that voice, for it is a voice of such love and grace; it will nourish you, nurture you, encourage and empower you.
Your family understands well and embodies such love and grace. Your parents, Heather and Gerald shared their sacred story, how they experienced the profound love of God. There are things in our lives that we can’t ever fully comprehend or explain. Sometimes we just have to see how everything is unfolding as it meant to be. The process of adopting is one of them, because as Gerald said, it happens out of our hands. From the day you were born and the joining this loving family on the next day to the finalization of your adoption and the celebration of your baptism today, God has been working miraculously. Your brother Elliot puts it best. “God keeps his promises”, “Miracles happen” and “Dreams come true”. That’s a pretty strong statement, and hard to keep it up. But your family knows how to live by it, because they live as if everything depends on God, making enough room for God’s grace.
Grace. That’s what we are celebrating today more than anything else. It’s hard to explain. No dictionary can define what it is. For it is meant to be lived and experienced. It recognizes our limit, and embraces our vulnerability, and at the same time, it acknowledges that there is a power greater than ourselves, and that it is trustworthy. Yes. We know we are safe when we live in and by grace. God’s grace is sufficient for all.
We can’t see it, but we can feel it, especially on a day like today as we celebrate the two sacraments, baptism and communion. The sacraments are visible signs of invisible grace. In baptism we use water. It cleans us, refreshes us, rejuvenates us, and quenches our thirst. We can’t live without it. In communion we break bread together. It nurtures us, sustains us, gives us strength, and fills our hunger. We can’t live without our daily food. There is, however, a deeper meaning in the sacraments. We become united with Jesus Christ, who personified God’s love and grace. Jesus lived and loved this human life, and he showed us what God’s dream looks like, and how to make the dream come true by loving one another, and forgiving each other. In the sacraments, we not only glimpse what’s possible but also experience it with Jesus. It is here we see ourselves as God sees us, and we know ourselves as we are known by God. Galatians 3:26-29, sums it up well, and that was used in the early Christian community’s baptism.
“In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.”
Margaret, we are celebrating your baptism, and we are celebrating you, a child of God, and a daughter of the promise. We are in awe of the great mystery, that we are one in Christ Jesus, and we belong to Christ together. May God bless you and your journey. And may God bless your family, this congregation, and the world because of you.