“Dear Mya”

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Rev. Jocelyn B. Gardner Spencer

September 16, 2018

Mark 1:9-20


Dear Mya… Dear Child of God,

We could say that when that water touched your brow this morning, it changed nothing.  You were loved from the top of your head to the tips of your toes before, and you are equally loved now.  You were adored by your family and your church family before, and you are equally cherished now.  You were made in God’s image before, and you are equally a reflection of God’s face now.

We could also say that when that water touched your brow this morning, it changed everything.  The drops that ran down your nose were a public proclamation that you are nothing less than the apple of God’s eye.  The drops that dampened your hair were tears of joy falling from God’s face because of you.  The drops that gathered on your forehead marked you with the sign of the cross, the sign of the unbreakable, incomprehensible, all-transforming love that is the most powerful force on earth or in heaven.  That water sealed you for your purpose, for your identity, for your journey as a child of God.

And what a journey it will be.

You are beginning this journey just as Jesus did, with a potent blessing in water and word, song and Spirit.  Did you hear what God said, what we said?  “You are my Child, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”  Take that in, Mya.  Let it ring in your ears and sink into your heart.  Let it be written on your palm, inscribed on the insides of your eyelids where you can see it every time you close your eyes.  Let it settle into your bones as the truest thing you will ever know.  You will need that truth, sweet child, just as Jesus did.

I wish I could promise you that the love that surrounds you this day would protect you from the hardships of life, but I cannot.  Our faith promises many things, but an easy journey is not one of them.  Right after Jesus received his baptismal blessing in the waters of the Jordan River, he was propelled out into the wilderness.  I hope you will get a little longer to rest in this blessing than Jesus got—but I know that you will, one day, find yourself in the wilderness, too.  I hope it is not any time soon—but I know that you will, one day, find yourself in places where the truth of the words that rang out from the heavens at Jesus’ baptism and at yours—the truth of your belovedness—may be hard to hear, may be almost drowned out by other messages, other voices, other experiences that might cause you to doubt who you are.  But even when you are there, Mya, you will not be alone, for you are bound to this family of faith by those drops of water and the truth they bear, and in that water, Jesus himself has chosen to bind himself to you.

And when you come out of the wilderness, when your journey leads you home to the company of people who remind you again of who you are, I wish I could promise that it will be easy then, but I can’t promise that, either.  Because a side effect of knowing that you are loved, and that everyone else is loved, too, is that you cannot help but notice and respond when this world does not treat every child of God with the dignity they deserve.  Knowing that you are loved, and that everyone else is loved, too, means that you will feel the pain of your siblings, your neighbors, your fellow humans when they are mistreated, oppressed, marginalized, or harmed.  It means that you will feel compelled to do whatever is in your power, and perhaps some things that seem beyond your reach, to shift this world in the direction of love.  It means that you will have to contend with systems that are deeply entrenched and powerfully resistant to change.

But then, you know something about struggle already, Mya, and you have shown your strength and resilience already.  Your strong spirit propelled you into the world before the world was quite ready for you, and before your body was quite ready for the world, and yet your body is growing and strong, and your mind is forming and curious, and your personality is already so much in evidence.  You already have what you need to meet whatever challenges may await you, for you were born into a family full of perseverance and dedication and care.

Your family by blood, and your family by choice, and your family by faith have been preparing the way for you our whole lives long, and others have been preparing before us, just as John the Baptist prepared the way for his cousin Jesus before he arrived.  We have done what we can to make things ready for you, to build a world that can receive and celebrate all the gifts you will bring—the ones we can see already and the ones that are yet to be revealed to us, though they are already planted deep within you.  We know the work is not done.  We look at you, and we wish we had done more.  So today, as we bless you and give thanks for the gift of your life, we pledge ourselves to continue in the work with you, to offer our gifts and to receive yours, so that together we might build the beloved community, the realm of God on earth as it is in heaven.

Because you are so loved, Mya, because even when those drops that dampened your brow this morning have long since evaporated, your heart will remain tapped into the deep, deep well of God’s love—you will be powerful.  We do not know today how exactly God’s call to discipleship will play out in your life—when and where and how Jesus will come walking by and call you to follow him into something entirely new—but I have no doubt that it will, that God will summon you to the place where, in the words of Frederick Buechner, your deep gladness meets the world’s deep hunger.  I have no doubt that you will carry on the always-unfinished work of building up God’s realm into a new chapter of which, today, we can only dream, but which you and God together will make a reality.

We could say that this sacrament of baptism changes nothing.  I say it changes everything.  Wherever the journey leads, Mya, whoever you become, the truth we proclaim today will not change:  you are loved from stem to stern by the very God who knit you together in your mother’s womb, and by this family of faith that celebrates you today.  You are united with every person whose forehead has borne that watery blessing.  You are called to a purpose holy and high, and equipped to live out that calling in a way that is uniquely yours.  And whatever may come, you will not face it alone, but in the strong company of the communion of saints, and with the all-encompassing, never-ending love of God.

Blessings always,

Pastor Jocelyn


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