Emily (16), Anna (13), and Gabe (10) had requested/insited that they be baptized. The plans were made and day had come.
Some moments in life are just full, overfull. This was one of them. I stood outside before close family and friends. Some people I had not seen for several years. The morning was warm with a cool breeze. I could sense it, we were alive and awake to the moment we had planned for so long as we gathered around those three beautiful kids on a warm August morning in Manhattan Kansas. Sitting in the shade of a huge tree, nestled near a pond filled by a spring of water that gushed forth from deep in the rock below, we all felt the fullness of the moment.
The evening before, Emily asked me what they needed to know before the baptism. So we sat down all four of us. We talked about Jesus. We talked about the symbols of water and oil. We discussed the meaning of baptism. And when my teaching was over I shut the prayer book and I said there is only one thing necessary for you to remember now and that is simply to be open.
God has so much to say, all we need is to be open. It is easier said than done. So much gets in the way of us being open and present to the voice of God. Fear, anxiety, and judgment are a few of our most common human challenges.
We are challenged but God is not; God has many ways to speak to us and uses the language we hear best. Gently and kindly and with perfect perception God uses the stunning beauty and power of nature, or the love and joys of friendship, marriage or parenting, sometimes it is through art or music or architecture that God talks to us, and sometimes it is through the Bible, in church or in our silent prayer upon our bed.
Baptism is the beginning point of a life of opening up to God. And it takes a lifetime to learn to listen and trust in His divine and unique way of speaking directly to each of us.
We know it is God because when we hear that distinct voice we are deeply reconnected within ourselves to what matters, our souls are reassembled and our hearts are made new again. Religion is about connection with God.
In the Gospel account of Jesus’ baptism a dove came, the sky opened and a voice mysteriously spoke from a void and said,“This is my beloved”.
What we learn is that the waters of baptism are not only about washing away sin or repairing us; those waters are also calling us toward becoming more deeply the beloved we already are; some call it our true self.
I told Emily and Anna and Gabe that they will get confused in life, they will compare themselves to everyone else, they will fixate on their failures, they will overly focus on their successes, they will try to make themselves more beloved or believe at times they are not loveable at all.
When the confusion comes the church and Jesus invite them to return to the day when they took off their shoes and stepped into that beautiful spring fed pool of water under the large shade tree.
God knows that only love can free us. When we are loved and known and still loved we humans open up. Our hearts widen our hands get to work because we respond best and most fully to love.
In God we say, “no secrets are hid”. The chambers of our soul are where God resides deep under the surface. And when we are open, like a spring of water God’s grace and love gushes; eternally reminding us that we are divinely beloved.
Be open to the God’s love which is plentiful and refreshing as water, be open to receive God’s grace which is soft and luxurious as oil on the skin. Be open because God is always speaking to those he loves.