June 9, 2019 – A Letter to Holland

Text:  Acts 2:1-21

Dear Holland, this is my letter to you. Today is a big day for you and your family as we are celebrating your baptism. You may not fully realize the significance of your baptism now, but as time goes by you will learn to appreciate the meaning. It is here in baptism that we recognize God’s love for you, and we respond to that love by rejoicing in it. Baptism is God’s way of saying “I love you so much more than anyone in the world can” and our way of saying “yes, God, yes, let your love fill our hearts so we can demonstrate your love in all that we say and do.” This is the moment in your life that will continue to evoke who you really are and to whom you belong. Holland, you are a beloved child of God; you belong to God and God’s family.

By the time you will be able to read this letter, Holland, you will understand already that the world around you is not entirely safe or reliable. Things happen for no reason, and everyone goes through good times and bad times. Since you were born, you probably have cried a lot because that’s one of the ways you communicate with the people close to you. There is, however, a spiritual meaning of cries. Just like you cry to your mom when you are hungry, wet or something is not right, you can cry out to God. You see, nobody is going to cry if there is no one who will listen to them; we can only cry because we know someone will answer. By crying out to God, Holland, you express your deep trust in God. The good news is that God will not forsake you or leave you; you can always rely on the hand of God that will hold you in all circumstances especially in times of trouble. Baptism is a recognition and celebration of God’s faithful companionship, the journey together with you.

That’s why we are excited to be here as witnesses to the power of God’s spirit, who works in you as it works in us. When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, he wasn’t alone. There were lots of people who shared one baptism with him. The gospels describe this special moment with such an imaginative and affirming way. “The heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Child, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’” I am sure that the people at the river were in awe because as Jesus was affirmed they were affirmed, as Jesus was loved they were loved. They would have remembered Jesus’ baptism throughout his life and ministry and beyond. I can tell you that there are lots of happy faces here today. Holland, you are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. We will continue to support you and your family remembering always this shared experience of God’s grace and love. Once again we welcome you into the body of Christ. You are joining with countless siblings of Christ around the world in celebrating God’s presence.

Throughout your journey with Christ, Holland, you will learn the mystery of living in community. In fact, you already know what it is like living in community. In your immediate family, there are not only your parents but also your older sister, London who came before you. You are blessed to be in relationship with everyone in your family. You are a blessing to your family as together you and your family continue to learn to live as a family of four. You were born into a very loving and faithful family. Both your mom and dad were born and raised in a Christian family. It is important for your parents to pass on what they have been given from their previous generations to you – being part of the community, believing, knowing God, being kind to others, and helping them when needed. These values will keep you grounded and strong. I was struck by how your sister, London shows her empathy toward you, and how you like to follow everything she does. Holland, you have the gift of paying attention. You really notice what’s around you. When you came into my office the other day with your parents, the first thing you noticed after a brief greeting was the fan in the ceiling. Then, your mind was captured by the rain stick I gave you. You were mesmerized by the wonder of things as we were mesmerized by the gift of attention you bring to our world. You are so observant that the people around must pay equal attention to what you notice. Thank you for your gift of attention; it helps us notice things we sometimes take for granted, and it helps us communicate more deeply.

That is the work of the Spirit. Everything becomes extraordinary when you let the Holy Spirit breathe into each and every moment. When the followers of Christ gathered together in one place, they experienced the transforming power of the Spirit. They were able to communicate beyond the limit of language or cultural differences. That’s how the church began, and that’s what makes church alive – listening to the Spirit, and speaking boldly and acting courageously as it moves us. It is my prayer that throughout your life, Holland, you will be guided and strengthened by the power of the Spirit. It is still possible, just like what happened on the day of Pentecost, people will be perplexed, they will misunderstand you, and the world will misjudge you. But remember, Holland, to follow the same voice that is speaking to you today “You are my beloved. With you I am well pleased.” Following the Spirit, you will always speak the truth in love, notice the beauty of everything, and hear the sound of praise to God as your great crowd of witnesses have always done.