Today we experience one of the most beautiful moments in the ministry of the church: the gift of baptism; today for Austin Dennis Barker. And the beauty is not simply in so many family and friends gathered here to celebrate or the pure simplicity of water pouring out on his head, but it’s the idea of this vast, immense, Almighty God has a unique, incredibly special connection with Austin, that he will become a child of God: forgiven, redeemed, set free from sin and death for eternity. That, of course, doesn’t mean there still won’t be a fair share of tough life moments, to say the least, along the way. That’s why there’s the essential beauty of his family and friends with him here today, because they, and all of us as his as his sisters and brothers in Christ, will make a promise before God to support, encourage, and love Austin throughout his life.
Because as much as this wonderful moment is especially for Austin today, this is meant to be for the whole community of faith. God is not expecting Austin to take on this journey of faith alone. Today God is raising up all the more his parents, Amanda and Wesley, as well as his godparents, Annie and Jesse, to take special care not only of their son or godson, but this child of God. There is most certainly heartfelt beauty in that as well: that God is trusting them to watch over this precious child of God, this new disciple of Jesus Christ.
After all, in case you haven’t noticed, there are plenty of voices in the world, other than those of parents and godparents, trying to pull children away from a life filled with love. The prophet Isaiah, who we heard from this morning, will not allow us to forget how much we humans crave the “pointing of the finger” and the “speaking of evil,” that still runs as rampant today as it did thousands of years ago. We can point the finger and say that’s the culture, that’s Facebook and Twitter, that’s the media, that’s everybody else but us.
Nevertheless, it’s embedded in us too: it’s our human nature that we automatically resort to when we are frustrated and angry with not-so-pleasant life circumstances. We will place blame on others for all that goes wrong. We will even cave in to name-calling at complete strangers. It may seem perfectly harmless after the fact, in the heat of the moment, but when the children witness how we act, the words we speak…how much of an impact we have on God’s children and we don’t even realize it.
So, yes, the baptism today, although incredibly special for Austin, still has a fair amount of expectations from God for Amanda and Wesley as his parents and for Annie and Jesse as his godparents, to never forget the influence you have on children all the days of their life. We are more than capable of hideous acts, to be sure, but we are also more than blessed enough by God for amazing acts of service and sacrifice: to remind the young people that this life is not about promoting ourselves, about showing off to the world how great we are, to increase our self-worth, but instead living to the glory of God in service to the entirety of God’s Creation, including all of God’s children.
It is not easy at all. We most definitely fall short of the glory of God time and time again. Our children will see it, whether we like it or not. And so, today, all of us return to the waters of baptism, not just for Austin, but that we too will be reminded by God that we have been claimed as well. God has claimed us as God’s very own. God washes us daily with new life through a divine outpouring of forgiveness and mercy that will not allow our sins to define us.
Yes, Austin will be washed in love in spite of the times when he will not behave exactly as his parents wish, or live up to the expectations as a disciple of Jesus Christ. But God makes a promise to him, and to his entire family, that no matter what happens God will never ever leave Austin. And God also makes a promise to Amanda, Wesley, Annie, and Jesse that no matter how frustrating it gets raising a child in this day in age, no matter how immense the stress, God will never ever leave you either. You are not expected to raise this child on this faith journey alone. Austin is baptized into a new family today, a family of sisters and brothers in Christ committed to support and encourage him all the days of his life; so that Austin may see first-hand a glimpse of how much God truly cherishes him. There’s absolutely nothing in this entire Creation that will ever be able to take that away from Austin: not even death itself, because this is the God Who’s been through it all in Jesus Christ, Whose love for all of God’s children, including for Austin, continues to come to life, even today, as God claims Austin through the waters of baptism as God’s very own now and forevermore. And for that, we give thanks to God indeed! Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Nan Dehnke, Pastor
Office: Mon - Thu: 9 a.m. - Noon