Lectionary: Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Canticle 2 (Rite I) and Canticle 13 (Rite II); 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20
It’s a wonderfully complicated day today. We gather to celebrate the baptism of Maeve Nash, welcoming
As only God can do, our lectionary today is perfect. We begin with the story of creation from Genesis 1. God created and created and created like a mad artist; each creation leading to another burst of creative love revealing yet another dimension of the nature and character of God.
The creation story culminates with God’s creation of humankind… “in the image of God” they were created, male and female. While all of creation is infused with the breath of God’s creative love, only humans are created in God’s own image, and more than that, we are given responsibility to care for the rest of creation.
Please don’t let the phrase “have dominion over” trip you up. It can and does mean rule over, but it also means “noble.” God made humans noble in relation to all other creation. To be noble is to have higher moral principles and ideals.
Dominion is not the same as dominance. Dominion is relational. Dominance is hierarchical. Dominion is other-centered. Dominance is self-centered.
While we’re at it, there are two more phrases in our gospel text to clarify. The first is: “Go, therefore, and make disciples.” We had a lively discussion about this at our Bible study this past week. It’s the word translated as “make” that has led to so much coercive action by churches that may or may not have been trying to do the right thing. The problem is the word isn’t “make” – it’s “teach” (literally). Teach others to be disciples.
That’s exactly what we are going to promise to do for Maeve as we baptize her. We’ll promise to teach her – as her community of faith – to be a disciple of Jesus.
The second is the word translated as “obey.” Baptize them, Jesus says, in the name of the Trinity, and teach them to obey everything that I have commanded you. The word “obey” has also led many in the church to focus on enforcing compliance with rules, which is sad, because what Jesus actually said here is better translated as “observe, keep, maintain.”
Love God with all our hearts, minds, and souls. Love our neighbor as ourselves. Love one another as heloved us. Love our enemies. Love - in all its many, complicated forms. When we gather to worship and share Holy Communion, we reconnect ourselves to God and to one another, because answering Jesus’ command to love isn’t easy. In fact, it often seems impossible.
Every day we hear of another shooting somewhere in our country. Every day.
Gun violence is now the leading cause of death for our children. Our culture has politicized this so much that it’s become nearly impossible to have reasonable discussions about it – but we must, and church is where those difficult discussions have to happen, because church is where the love of God has dominion in our hearts.
Church is where the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ unites us into one body, one spirit. It’s where we recognize that the only true power is the power of God and that power is the power of love. Church is where we greet one another with a holy kiss – something only family did in St. Paul’s time.
We are the family of God in Christ in this time and place in the world. We baptize people and teach them how to love as Jesus commanded us to do, remembering that no matter how impossible or horrible the world seems at any moment of our experience, it is a beloved creation born of God’s love and it is our responsibility to care for it, to restore it to peace and unity, and to teach others to do the same.
You can see why this was so threatening. Yet apparently it was. Protestors from Westboro Baptist Church and some other local church groups showed up to scream condemnation at us using foul language – in front of the children. Horrible words were graffitied onto our church doors and walls with black paint. They tried to disrupt our worship the next morning with a bullhorn screaming derogatory names and accusations at our faith community.
Is this how they interpret Jesus’ command to love? It didn’t feel a bit like love. It felt very much like hate.
Our LGBTQIA+ siblings in Christ are currently under attack. They are not being loved as Christ commanded, and tragically, it is most often by those who identify themselves as followers of Jesus, as holders of higher moral principles and ideals. They delude themselves.
Today, as we sacramentally welcome the newest member of the Christian family, we will also renew our own Baptismal vows – vows that call us to worship together, to seek Christ in ALL others, to love and respect their dignity as fellow nobles, all of us caring for God’s creation.
These are not vows we take lightly. They are our signposts, our guides on how to live as Christians, how to love as Christians in the world as it is.
It won’t be easy. Hate is strong, but love is stronger, and Jesus promised to be with us always – to the end of the “breathing of breath,” the end of human life. While we have life, we have Jesus; and having Jesus means having the wholeness of the Trinity.
Let us pray… Spirit of the Living God, who dwells in our noble human bodies, fill us to overflowing with your divine love, so that the world in which we stand is continually nourished by your living water. Open our hearts and minds, that we may keep your command to us to love. Give us courage to call out hate and restore relationship as we go, teach, and baptize in your name, that your peace may heal our troubled and broken world. Keep us connected to you and to one another, now and always. Amen.