Friday, May 29, 2015
A Letter for Jamie: Baptismal Words on Trinity Sunday (31 May 2015)
It has become my custom to write a letter to the newly-baptized to be read on the day of their baptism. This Sunday Jamie Toby Li will be baptized at Saint Faith's and here are my words to him.
31 May 2015
I hope that in the years to come you and I will come to know each other better. But in the event that we do not, I want to tell a few things about what happened to you today at Saint Faith’s. It may help to read this letter with your mother and father so that they can share their story about today and answer any questions you may have.
Today you were baptized and became a member of the Christian community. We are a very old community reaching back two thousand years. It is a community that has included and still includes people from every continent, from every language, from every culture. It is a community of women, men and children, a community of rich people and poor people, a community of people who try to do good things and sometimes fails. But when we fail, we are not afraid to say that we have failed, to ask for forgiveness from those we may have hurt and to try again to do the right thing.
Many people will try to tell you what we believe and often they use very long words that are not always helpful. It’s not that these people are trying to be unhelpful; it’s just that our story is both simple and complicated. Let me tell you the simple story first.
We believe that God is love. Because God is love, God decided, billions of years ago, to create the universe so that God would be able to share this love with all sorts of creatures, even creatures that no longer exist in our world such as dinosaurs and pterodactyls. God is still creating our world as continents move across the surface of our planet and as all creatures, human and non-human, continue to evolve in ways that are still a mystery to us. Every day we are learning more about how God is at work in our world, but there is still so much to learn.
We believe that God is love. Because God is love, God tries in many ways to show us how we ought to live together, humans and non-humans. Thousands of years ago God sent a teacher named Moses who led a community of people we call the Jews from slavery into freedom. Moses shared with the people ways that they could live together in peace and harmony. But people, being people, don’t always like to follow someone else’s rules, even if those rules might come from God. So, two thousand years ago, God had a new idea; God would come into our world to show us how to live. God chose to dwell in a Jewish man named Jesus of Nazareth. For three years Jesus taught people about God’s love and compassion, about sharing and caring, about peace and justice. When Jesus died at the hands of some powerful people who did not like what Jesus was saying and doing, God did not let Jesus’ death be the end of the story. God raised Jesus from the dead and gathered around Jesus a community of men and women who would share the message throughout the world.
We believe God is love. Because God is love, God gives people courage to speak and act like Jesus, to love and be compassionate, to share and care, to work for peace and justice. Some of these people have chosen to speak and act like Jesus as members of the Christian community and to invite other people, young and old, to join them in continuing God’s work.
Today your mother and father brought you to Saint Faith’s so that you could join us in the work God began in creation, renewed in Jesus and continues through the Holy Spirit. Because your parents love you, they brought you here so that you could become part of a community who tries every day to make God’s love known wherever they go.
This is the simple part of the story, our story, your story. The hard part comes in the days ahead. Loving the world in the same way that God loves the world is not easy; it’s never been easy. Loving the world in the same way that God loves the world means standing up to bullies, saying we are sorry when we hurt other people, caring for those who are hungry and homeless, treating every person with respect (even the people we don’t particularly like), making good decisions about how we use the resources of this planet. Loving the world in the same way that God loves the world means trying to do these things twenty-four hours a day, every day of the week, every day of our lives. And when we fail, we don’t give up. We pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start over again. God is very patient with us; after all, God has been working on this project for billions of years!
Sticking with this work is not easy; some people give up after only a little while. I hope that you won’t be one of those people, but, even if you were, it doesn’t mean that God does not love you, that we, the Christian community, don’t love you. You can always pick up where you left off.
Jamie, today the people at Saint Faith’s promised to support you in any way that they can. You can trust their promise. You can trust the promise that any Christian community, wherever you may go, wherever you may live, will support you in any way they can. That’s how we do things; that’s how we’ve been doing it for almost two thousand years.
Jamie, I want to share with some words from a song written by David Haas. I’ve changed a couple of words just for today, but they are my wish for you: “You are God’s work of art, created in Jesus the Christ. You have been [given the light of Jesus]. Walk as [a child] of [that] light. Keep the flame of faith in your heart, and may you meet [Christ wherever you go.] Blessed be our God, who chose you in the light of Christ.”
Your friend for ever,
(The Rev’d Dr) Richard Geoffrey Leggett
Rector of Saint Faith’s Anglican Church