September 25, 2016

– The Rev’d Dale Yardy –

 

Focus text Luke 15:1-10

This morning we encounter two beautiful stories Jesus tells. The first has Jesus ask which one of us, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them does not leave the 99 in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? Or what woman having 10 silver coins, if she loses one, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? The conclusion of both vignettes has both the one with the lost sheep and lost coin call together their friends and neighbours to celebrate and rejoice with them that that which was lost is now found.

The text encourages us to think of that thing most precious in our own life and what it would be like to lose it, whether through carelessness, happenstance, or theft.

Something on which you place extreme value goes missing. Suddenly part of the whole is gone. Not that you cannot continue; you can. People adapt – but life is somehow less complete. How would you feel? To what lengths would you go to find it again?

Today’s parables are all about the preciousness of the lost item, and the diligence of those who search for it. The simile that is drawn in both cases are quite transparent. God is like the shepherd who values each sheep in the flock, like the woman who accounts for every silver coin in the purse. God treasures every child of the family. When one goes missing, God goes into search mode. For God’s nature is love, and love looks like one who goes out tirelessly searching, because the one who is lost is so lost that he cannot find his way back home.

Baptism is the Church’s way of reminding us of this beautiful truth that these parables point to. It is a symbolical reminder to us that we are inextricably linked to God’s heart, and marked as God’s own forever. As St Augustine said, “our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you O God.” Baptism is the church’s way of naming and rejoicing in that intimate relationship between the Creator and the created.

Today, in the sacrament of Baptism, we formally initiate the Kinsley into this ongoing process of discovering life more deeply because we recognize it is God who connects us, who reminds us we are not alone, and it is to God whom we ultimately belong.

This is what we celebrate in the sacrament today, this is why Jesus commanded us to baptize and teach – to remind humanity that they are not isolated islands unto themselves and that there is a dimension of life that is far deeper than what we can articulate with our words. In baptism, we essentially stick our toe into these deeper waters and are reminded of that mystery we call God that supports all of life.

Now there is both a practical and profound reason behind why Kinsley will be baptized today – she is firstly baptized and marked as God’s own forever, not because God needs reminding of her own inherent belatedness, but because in time she will. There will come a time in Kinsley’s life where she will begin to doubt her own belovedness, her own sense of self-worth. These doubts might arise through a careless word that is uttered by a friend in the school yard, or from her own wild imaginings. This is part of being human, we forget all too soon our belovedness before God as we get caught up in life’s illusions or fears. I’ve come to believe that we human beings operate out of three universal fears, these are in no particular order; the fear of not being loved, the fear of not being good enough, and the fear of not belonging. In baptism those fears are washed away as we take on a new identity as beloved of God. For “There is nothing we can do to make God love us more, there is nothing we can do to make God love us less.”

In Baptism, we are identified as beloved of God, and all other labels melt away. Think about that for a moment, whoever you are, wherever you’ve been, you are beloved by God, no exceptions. We don’t hear that nearly enough. And in the sacrament of Baptism today what’s so powerful about what happens here is that through this ritual, God speaks, God moves, reminding us of Christ’s belovedness, and by extension our own. Baptism seen in this light becomes less an exclusive club, and more one of God’s eternal love song to humanity, where God reminds Kinsley, our community, and the world by extension that they are loved, that they are good enough, and that they do belong.

Kinsley is also baptised today to remind her that no matter where she may find herself in life, she has a family here who will support her in her spiritual journey, through all her doubts and fears, as well as joys. I remember a number of years ago Bishop Michael said to a group of candidates for Confirmation that wherever they may find themselves in the world, to go into an Anglican church and just allow the liturgy to carry them and know that they were home. He was reminding them that they belong now to a community of faith that is worldwide and that their identity is always bound to those deeper waters, or the deeper life that Baptism opens up.

The central sign we use in this Initiation rite is the water in the baptismal font. Water is an ancient archetypal symbol of birth and rebirth. As Joseph Campbell points out, “To enter into this font is to plunge into the mythological realm; to break the surface is to cross the threshold into the night sea. Symbolically, the infant makes the journey when the water is poured on its head; its guide and helpers are the priest and godparents. Its goal is a visit with the parents of its Eternal Self, the Spirit of God and the Womb of Grace. Then it is returned to the parents of the physical body.”1

I love that. I love that the water in baptism holds such deep mythological and spiritual truth for the Kinsley today. I love that what we do here today touches those depths and reminds us of the deeper reality that lies behind the life we know in the here and now. I love that Campbell describes Baptism as a journey, a journey that takes us through the night sea, or through life’s trials. It empowers us to go through these trials mindful of the deeper reality that is now inexplicably tied to us – the reality of Christ, the reality of God, the reality of Spirit. In baptism today, Kinsley will be plunged into Christ’s death and resurrection, she will be plunged into the mystery of life’s night sea journey and its new day dawning. For the reality is, we always find ourselves somewhere in between the two, somewhere between the dark and the light, the good times and the bad. In baptism, we acknowledge God’s presence with us throughout both – that is what connects us, sustains us, and reminds us we belong.

The Gospel set for this morning is a way of naming this central characteristic of the church – namely that our God longs to connect with us. Our God loves us with an everlasting love and our God gives us a future hope that begins now. The Gospel this morning is God’s own love letter to Kinsley and to us all, a reminder that Jesus will never cease to search us out when we get lost and rejoice when we are found again – so great is God’s love for all creation.

The church Kinsley is baptized into today is called to be a place that exists to proclaim that love, sometimes we fall short, allowing our own pride or projections to distort this pure gift. But at its best, the church exists to accompany people into those deeper spiritual waters, encouraging them to live out their baptismal promises, to know God more fully, and love others more deeply without reserve.

I’ve asked one of our Deacon’s, Chris to assist me in baptising Kinsley today. Let us now take a few moments to pray for Kinsley May who is to receive the sacrament of Baptism this day and be encouraged in our own faith journey.


1   Joseph Campbell – “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.” – Third Ed. 2008