On Sunday, I had the pleasure of baptizing my granddaughter, Ana. It was a truly special day for me, and “apparently” for some in the congregation. I haven’t been able to look back to find how long it has been since we had a baptism, but I know it has been sometime. See, we are an “Empty Nesters” Church, and though it may seem very sad, I am thinking that we will find our purpose other than doing really nice funerals. I hope we can find more meaningful things to do as we continue on. In the meantime here are some pictures and the message from that day.
The baptismal group all lined up.
Jaxon asking Paulina to take the picture.
Ana seems to be yawning, or maybe she was singing.
Sponsors, Jessica and Tony with Ana. We don’t have a picture with her and the parents. Good grief!
The family at the baptism.
She just wanted to sleep. Maybe she was nice and warm.
The cake at the reception. This was not cut correctly, and so wasn’t eaten. Blame the grandmother.
Ana with cousin Luke and Great Aunt Alvina.
As listed above the title was: “A New Way.” The scriptures used were: Deuteronomy 34:1-12, Matthew 22:34-46 and I Thessalonians 2:1-8.
This is what was said, well without the ad libbing.
It seems that I come here every Sunday and tell you how busy I have been in the past week. In truth I am not so sure this week was all that busy. I might want to think that I was busy with grandchildren at our house, but in reality there was quite a bit of sitting around time. Jaxon and I sat to eat, sat to play some games, and sat to watch some Bubble Guppies, or as I was starting to say it Gubble Buppies. Now Ana and I sat even more. We sat for feedings, for rockings and just to sit.
Of course there were a few moments of craziness, especially when the phone rang about three times at once. See I don’t know what happens at your place, but at our place there must be some sort of technological aura. We can go for a whole day without any sort of calls, and then all phones go off at once or in tandem. And the best part is if someone doesn’t answer their cell phones then you call the house phone. Usually when I didn’t answer the cell phone it was because I was already talking on it to someone else, and I could hear the beep coming through, but depending on who was calling and my ability to call back, I would just ignore it.
See I am not that tech savvy with my phone. I have only had the thing for about five years, so really haven’t had time to figure it out. I have tried, but really haven’t got a clue about putting one call on hold to answer the other, and so on and so on. Well that means when the house phone rings while I am already on the cell phone, it just makes life even crazier. And some days I wonder what it would be like to go back to simple and quiet and sitting around playing board games or just visiting with no technology driving us all up the wall.
Perhaps that is why it seems so relaxing to stop and read stories like the one about Moses of this week. Though when you think about Moses and all he went through with the Israelites, he might just as well have had a cell phone or two. Maybe if Aaron would have texted him about the people going crazy wondering when he was going to return from the mountain with the 10 Commandments, maybe there wouldn’t have been a golden calf and all such things, but then again maybe it would have all been worse.
Today we read about the final trip Moses makes to the top of a mountain to hear from God. Today we find ourselves in the wilderness with Moses for the last time. As I got to looking at this story, I realized it is a good passage to use to think of an ending, perhaps a passage to use at a funeral. Well truthfully this is about the passing away and the burial of Moses. God leads him to the top of the mountain; he looks out at all of the land that the Israelites will possess and he dies. No one knows where he is buried because he was buried by God and not any of the Israelites. We are at an ending.
We could look at it that way, but we are not going to. We are going to look at this story with a different, a new idea in mind. This story isn’t just about the end of the trip that the Israelites take out of Egypt. This is the beginning of the story of how the Israelites take over the land of Canaan. This passage is also the story of how Moses passes on and passes the reigns, the role of leadership of the Israelites over to Joshua. It is a bit of a passing of the torch sort of story. It is a handing down of the ways. Moses gives Joshua the people to lead and the faith to follow.
Today in the act of baptism we have passed the faith to another generation. Ana is not the first of her family to be baptized, and she is not the first of her age group, but she is among many children in families around the world who believe in the importance of passing on their faith. Ana’s parents and sponsors and family members and you as a congregation have promised to guide and support her as she grows in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and an appreciation of what God has in store for her life.
And even though Ana will not be an every Sunday member of our congregation attending Sunday services and Sunday School, we have a mutual bond through her baptism in our midst, and we will continue to care about her well-being as she grows in her faith. Baptism is an important sacrament in all Christian Churches. It is a bond we share as Christians. We are baptized into Christ’s family to become joint heirs of God’s kingdom when it is our turn to pass on as Moses did on the top of Pisgah on Mt. Nebo
This chapter in Deuteronomy was used in a speech by Martin Luther King Jr. in his final speech in Memphis the night before he was assassinated. He compared himself to Moses in that he had seen the Promised Land. He knew that Civil Rights was on the verge of becoming the law and a reality, and he said it didn’t matter if he lived to see it because he knew it would happen. We see now that this story is several things. It is certainly the looking into the future of what is to come. Each people, each generation has a Promised Land that we look forward to, but it is also the story of handing over of the leadership, and mostly the faith to the next generation. Just as Moses handed over the leadership of the Israelites to Joshua, so we hand over the stories, the workings, the followings of our faith to the next generation through the act of baptism.
In considering the lesson we looked at from the book of Matthew, I am curious why none of the Jewish leaders ever questioned Jesus about the sacrament of baptism. Boy babies were brought to the temple when they were only a few days old for the act of circumcision, but baptism was not a Jewish ritual, and Jesus was baptized as an adult, yet they never questioned the need or truth of that. No instead they tried everything to trap Jesus in terms of the law, and this passage was no exception.
The section immediately before the one we read today was about how the Sadducees who do not believe in the resurrection, tried to trap Jesus on a question about what happens in terms of marriage in the afterlife. When he silences them, the Pharisees have their turn. The passage we read in Matthew earlier is another trap where they try to get Jesus to choose one commandment as being greater than any of the others. And again they fail. Jesus is always ahead of their plots and plans even to the time when they arrest him. Jesus is always on to their schemes no matter which set of leaders is after him. So too it should be for us when we face the issues in the world around us.
Yes, because we know Christ and all that he did for us days like today are not a linear/straight down handing over of the faith like you pass on a set of rules. Instead, ours is a perpetual circle of faith and life and resurrection. We bring future generations with us into the realm of Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus we become the children of God and when this earthly life ends for us, we are given a new life through the grace of Jesus.
And, today there is no but, it is an AND. And when we believe when we give ourselves over to Christ, he asks us to follow the greatest of all commandments: To love the Lord our God with all of our heart and soul and mind, and when we do that we will also love our neighbor as our self without a question. By the way, our neighbors include everyone. It isn’t just the person who lives beside us, or sits beside us in the pew on Sundays, but everyone, even those of us who are not so loveable. Jesus asks us to do that, and hard as it may seem, when we give ourselves over to his grace and his love, it becomes possible. So let’s remember today as we leave, that just as Moses handed the staff of leadership to Joshua at the end of his days, and just as we pass on our faith in the act of baptism, it is also so very important that we live our faith each and every day by following the greatest commandment that Jesus gave us, to love one another. Amen!!