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Saturday, April 20, 2019

A Baptismal Love Letter at the Great Vigil

A Baptismal Love Letter for R.C. L.

About 15 years ago, I started writing what I call Baptismal Love Letters. My intention is to reflect on the gospel of the day in such a way that it might provide some future guidance for the newly baptized, perhaps as preparation for Confirmation, or during one of the difficult times life inevitably presents us with when our faith is tested and we wonder why God has abandoned us or we feel our prayers are not being heard or simply why it is we call ourselves Christian.

So, this is a Baptismal Love Letter for R.C.L. Now, if, as I’m reading this letter, the rest of you should want to listen in, well, so much the better. If you nod off, just please, try not to snore.

Dear R.C.L.

I can’t tell you how delighted I am that you have chosen to be baptized. 

When we first talked about baptism, you told me that you wanted to be baptized so that you could receive communion. That’s a wonderful reason to want to be baptized!  I’m so excited for you that you will receive your first communion at the first Eucharist of Easter. 

And, I confess, I’m excited to have the privilege of providing that important sacramental moment for you at the Great Vigil of Easter.

Tonight, you – and we all – have heard the story of our salvation, from the chanting of the Exultet, a beautiful love song to the Light of Life, to the Creation Story and the story of Israel’s deliverance at the Red Sea. We then moved onto the Prophet Isaiah’s assurance that salvation is offered freely to all and heard the magnificent story from the Prophet Ezekiel and The Valley of the Dry Bones. 

The final reading we heard was from the Prophet Zephaniah’s call to “Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!” for “The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst.”

And now you are adding your story, the story of your life, to the salvation story. Yes, your story is important. 

When you spend some time reading the bible and discover some things about some of the characters in scripture, you’ll find that there is no story too humble, no origins too lowly, no sinner beyond redemption and grace, forgiveness and renewal of life.   

The love of God is unconditional.

Indeed, what you’ll find is that God seems to have a special preference for those who have struggled, those who have suffered, those who are far from perfect. 

God is constantly lifting up the lowly, raising up what has been cast down, making new what has grown old and bringing all things to their perfection.

And, that’s the other thing, the thing I want you to know. You don’t have to be perfect to be loved by God. Far from it. That’s because no one is perfect. 

Oh, we may look like it. Some of us wear nice clothes and live in lovely homes and drive good cars. Many of us smile and seem very happy and, in fact, many of us are all those things.

Here’s what we’re not: perfect. 

We are being perfected . . . we are being made, to borrow a phrase from the US Constitution, “more perfect”. Not perfect. No. God wants us to be something harder than perfect.

God wants us to be real.

The way to become real is by being made “more perfect”. And, “more perfect” is achieved by falling, sometimes, but more importantly, getting back up again, anyway. 

You remember the story of Pinocchio we talked about in preparation for your baptism, right? You’ll remember when the Blue Fairy cut the strings off Pinocchio she said, “Little puppet made of pine, arise the gift of life is thine.”

That’s sort of what your baptism is like. It sets you free from the strings that have bound you, but it doesn’t make you perfect. It sets your soul free to be who you are, to be more of the person God had in mind when your soul was called into being.

Pinocchio made a lot of mistakes, didn’t he? He didn’t listen to his conscience – Jiminy Cricket – and skipped school and made some bad choices with people who didn’t care about him and told lies that made his nose grow. 

Even so, he still had the chance to pick himself up and have another chance. In fact, he exceeded even his own expectations of himself by putting his own life in danger to save his father.

All Pinocchio ever wanted was to become a real little boy. That’s all God wants from us – to become authentic, real, to grow more fully into the person God created us to be.

So it is with your baptism. The prayer, the hope, is that, in the gift of spiritual freedom you are given, you will also receive the spiritual gift of grace to become a “more perfect” person which God made you to be.   

You will become more of a real human being.

And if – when – you make a bad choice, when you fall, please know that this community of faith, the people of Christ Church, Milford, will be here to help you get up, to help you dust yourself off, to find forgiveness and the assurance of God’s pardon and forgiveness and the absolution of your sins.

Congratulations and God Bless you as you begin to take these first few steps in your new life in Christ. 

Know that you are a precious child of God. 

Know that God loves you beyond your wildest imagination. 

Know that you were born because there is something in this world that God needs to have done that only you can do. 

Your baptism frees your soul to discover that unique calling, what the church calls your “vocation”.

Know that, as you set off on this wonderful new adventure we call Christianity, that you have a church family, here at Christ Church, who will love you unconditionally. 

This is your church home, and, as a wise someone once said, “home is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”

God loves you. God bless you. Welcome home. 


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