Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Letter for Blythe on Her Baptism (Pentecost 5, 28 June 2015)

Dear Blythe,

            Before you were born, your mother and father had a decision to make that will have an impact on you for your whole life.  They had to decide what names they were going to give you.
            Names are very important.  I remember how my wife and I pondered the names for our three children who are now young adults.  We wanted names that would link our children’s stories with the stories of their ancestors.  We wanted names that would link them to both their father’s family and their mother’s family.  These decisions were not easy to make, because we knew how important names are.
            Your parents have chosen to name you Blythe Penelope.  These are lovely names as well as unusual names.  Because these are the names that your Christian sisters and brothers will know you by, you should know something about the names your parents have chosen.
            ‘Blythe’ comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word which means ‘joyful’ or ‘light-hearted’.  Most people these days don’t think of Christians as joyful or light-hearted.  I think that this is very sad.  Following Jesus is meant to be joyful and to lighten our hearts. 
            The joy of following Jesus comes from knowing that Jesus is the sign of God’s deep love for us and for all whom God has made.  It’s a joy that comes from knowing that everyone on earth is special to God, even if a person doesn’t believe in God or perhaps is not sure that she or he is special to God.  But what God has shown us in Jesus is good news for people who are poor and people who are rich, for men and women, for young and old.
            Blythe, I hope that you are always joyful.  Joy springs from having hope, hope that the problems you face and the problems that our world face are not God’s last word.  Joy comes when we know, deep in our hearts, that God is working in us and with us to build a world in which every person is valued.  I hope that you will be a ‘blithe spirit’, a source of joy to your family, to your friends and to the world.
            Your middle name, ‘Penelope’, is also an old name that reaches back to the times of the ancient Greek civilization.  It’s a name you share with a very special woman, Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, the Greek hero.  Her story is worth telling here.
            Penelope’s husband, Odysseus, went off on an adventure that took him away from his home for many, many years.  He was gone so long that most people thought he was dead.  Because they thought he was dead and because Penelope was a beautiful, intelligent and rich woman, many men wanted to marry her.  These men bothered her, showed up in her home and came to dinner every night.
            Penelope, though, did not want to re-marry.  She never lost hope that Odysseus would return.  So she came up with a plan.  Because it was the custom for women to weave wall hangings, Penelope began to weave a great tapestry for her home.  She told all the annoying men that she would make her decision when she finished her tapestry.  The men were satisfied, but they still hung around.  So every night, while everyone was asleep, Penelope would sneak into her weaving room and undo most of the work she had done that day.  That way the work went on and on and on for years.  And so, when Odysseus finally did return, he discovered his faithful and very smart wife waiting for him.
            Blythe Penelope, I hope that you become as intelligent and beautiful as your namesake.  I hope that you will see through the schemes that people concoct and that you will work quietly and patiently to undo those schemes.  That’s one of the things Jesus has asked Christian to do.  Our job is to look at the world with the loving eyes of God and to see where and how some people try to prevent others from becoming more truly human and from using the gifts that God has given to each one of us.  God expects us to unravel the schemes that the powerful weave to maintain control over the weak.  Unraveling wicked schemes doesn’t always make Christian popular, but then, Penelope wasn’t popular with the men hanging around her house.
            Blythe Penelope Sywulych, your name links you to your families as well as express hopes for your future.  It now links you to the world-wide Christian family.  May you always be joyful.  May you always be patient and resourceful.  May you always bring the gift of your name to the life of the Christian community so that the world can hear all the names of God’s beloved.
            There is a poem written by Brian Wren that we sometimes sing in church.  As I close this letter, I want to share the first verse of this poem with you.

Bring many names, beautiful and good,
celebrate, in parable and story,
holiness in glory, living, loving God.
Hail and hosanna!  Bring many names!

Today we bring your names to God and God will make them beautiful and good.  Hail and hosanna, Blythe Penelope, hail and hosanna, beloved child of God.

Always yours in Christ,



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