Ecclesiasticus 2:1-11, Ephesians 1:11-23, and Luke 6:20-36
We’re not alone here today. Do you realize that? We know, first and foremost, that we are in the presence of God, the God in whom, as St Paul says, “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28); God is here with us. Today, on All Saints’ Sunday, we also recall that we are in the presence of all the saints, those men and women and children who have gone before us in the faith, who have shown us the way by their words and their actions. The Christian faith affirms that for these followers of Christ, “life is changed not ended” and that they continue to be present to us in the “communion of saints.” We might imagine them surrounding us even now, looking down on us in much the same way as these monastic saints look down on us from the clerestory windows. Having finished the race they were given to run, they are now praying for us, supporting us, and cheering us on as we run the race that has been set before each one of us.
What will the whole company of saints witness here today? They will see us sharing together in this Holy Eucharist, blessing bread and wine and sharing it in remembrance of Christ our Lord. They will see us gather ‘round the baptismal font, with Lucca, and her big brother Atticus, and their parents Hannah and Jeff, and members of their family and friends. They’ll watch us pour water into the font and ask God to sanctify it; they’ll hear Lucca’s parents and godparents make promises for her (promises that she’s too young right now to make for herself), and they’ll watch us baptize Lucca and present her with a candle, a sign of Christ’s life and light given to her in baptism. They’ll also hear us reaffirm our baptismal covenant, as we renew the promises made in our own baptisms to turn from evil and to dedicate ourselves to following Christ.
They’ll see and hear all this, but they’ll also see and hear something more, because Holy Baptism is a sacrament, and sacraments are “outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace” (BCP, 857). That means that all the things we see and hear and smell today – the pouring of water, the blessings, the censing of the font, the promises, the act of baptism itself, the scent of the oil, and the gift of the candle – all these things we see and hear and smell are outward signs of something deeper and more meaningful that God is doing here today. Today, in this Baptism, God will adopt Lucca Isabella Olivet, who is just a little over one year old, into God’s family and make her a member of Christ’s Body, the Church. From now on she will always belong to this family of faith. Today God is sealing the promise God has made to be with her every day of her life, to strengthen her and support her and heal her and love her and bless her – every day! In this Baptism, Lucca will be united with Christ in his death and resurrection; she will be born into the family of God, the Church; she will be granted forgiveness of sins; and she will be given new life in the Holy Spirit (BCP 858). All of that – for such a little girl as Lucca!
As her life as a member of Christ’s Body, the Church, begins, her parents and her godparents and her brother Atticus and her uncle and her grandparents and all her friends and family members – even the ones that aren’t here today – and all of us… we’re all going to promise to do our best to help her become the best Christian she can be. We’re going to pray for her and encourage her and teach her about God and God’s Kingdom, so that when she’s old enough, she’ll be able to live out her baptismal promises herself. So we’re making a promise today and God is making a promise today, and these promises are good news for Lucca, and a sign of God’s grace and favor for all of us.
In the Letter to the Ephesians, the author offers a prayer for the Christians he knows who live in the city of Ephesus. He’s concerned for them and he wants to encourage them in the living out of their baptismal promises. He wants to teach them how to live godly lives. And so here he assures them that he is praying for them and even tells them what he prays for when he remembers them before God. (If you want to follow along, the words are on the last page of your bulletin). Here is what he prays:
“I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.”
It seems to me that this is the kind of prayer we can be praying for Lucca today. It’s a good model for us. We can ask God to give her “a spirit of wisdom and revelation as she comes to know God.” We can ask God to “enlighten the eyes of her heart,” so that she can know what is good and right, and so that she can recognize and respond to God’s love. We can pray that she may come to know the hope to which she has been called, that hope that has been offered to us in Christ and in the Good News of the Gospel. We can pray that she might come to realize the riches of the glorious inheritance that is now hers in Christ and with all the saints – riches of love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness, and the promise of eternal life. They are hers to enjoy. We can pray that she will know and experience the immeasurable greatness of God’s power in the lives of those who believe – power to forgive, power to heal, power to transform our lives, power to overcome hatred with love, power to overcome evil with goodness, power to drive away sadness and replace it with joy. All these things she is being given today by God. Today she has a new identity and a new life as a child of God; she has an everlasting hope that will never fail her; she possesses spiritual riches and gifts of the Spirit that are yet to be revealed; and she has God’s power and strength to help her live her life.
“See what love the Father has given us that we should be called the children of God,” says the author of I John, “and that is what we are!” (I John 3:1). See what love God has given little Lucca that she should be called a beloved daughter of God, and that is what she is!
Children of God and members of Christ’s Body, the Church, do you know this about yourselves? Do you know that God has chosen you to be his beloved children? Do you know that God has said that he loves you and values you, that he has called you by name and that you are his? Do you know that God has said that you are precious in his sight? Do you know that he has carved you on the palm of his hand, and that he will never forget you? Do you know that you belong to him forever? Do you know that you were once no people, but that now you are God’s people, and that you have been delivered from the power of darkness and death into the Kingdom of light and life? Do you know that God cares for you? Do you know that there is nothing in all of heaven or on all the earth that can ever separate you from God’s love? Did you hear it? Nothing. Ever.
Today Lucca Isabella will be “sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever” (BCP, 308). She is God’s beloved child, and today she will become a member of Christ’s Body, the Church. She will join us all in that sacred fellowship, and begin her Christian life. And this action of God will be witnessed not only by us who are present here, but by all the saints of God who now dwell with God and who live in communion with us.
Something mysterious and very wonderful is taking place today. Marvel at this and give God thanks!
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