Reflection: March 17

Published on Mar 19th, 2019 by Rev. David Boyd | 0

         We haven’t conducted a baptism in some time; it’s been a couple of years, in fact.  Baptisms are lovely; they give a focus on hope as we watch a little one move through the ritual of baptism. And because baptism is one of two sacraments celebrated in the United Church, it is special.  A sacrament is the mystery of God’s presence revealed in a very physical way… in the case of baptism, it is the physical act of blessing through water and becoming part of the family of God, what we have been calling the KinDom of God with an emphasis on KIN.

         Baptism is more than just ritual, though, and more than a sacrament.  In each baptism, we are all drawn into the drama of God’s presence, the story of God’s blessing of the world, and the story of transformation and new beginnings.  In baptizing Everlee this morning, we are all drawn into the great narrative of birth, life and new life.

         Rachel Marie Stone is a progressive Christian speaker and teacher, a blogger about food, faith, justice, and maternal health.  Interestingly, she is currently updating the More-with-Less cookbook first published by the Mennonites more than 30 years ago as a way of living simply and frugally on the earth.  She wrote a provocative article called Delivered Through the Waters: The Red Sea, the Baptistry, and the Birth Canal.  Rachel Marie Stone reminds us of the image of God as a labouring woman, a woman giving birth to new life, an image affirmed by Jesus in his lament over Jerusalem when he said, “How often have I wanted to gather your children together as a mother bird collects her babies under her wings.”

         As the title of her article suggests, Rachel Marie Stone writes about the deliverance of God’s people from bondage in Egypt, baptism as a journey of transformation, and the actual birth of a child.  She writes about God as a midwife, one who delivers life.  She affirms that the women named in the Bible are “… the hands and feet and image of God, a mother God, a midwife God, braving suffering, moving strongly through the risk of death to the promise of life—of fruitful, flourishing life.”[1]

         Interestingly, the Hebrew word for Egypt, mitsrayim, is related to the word for the pain of labour contractions.  The Jewish people in the Exodus were liberated from slavery by the God who laboured to make it happen.  God labours in all times and places to deliver life—a fruitful, flourishing life.  God’s labour pains are real and profound in Christchurch, New Zealand, at the moment.

         The beloved former Moderator of the United Church, the first woman elected as Moderator and who went on to be a Canadian Senator and very active in the World Council of Churches, Lois Wilson, has written and spoken extensively about baptism in the United Church, about God as midwife and about the transformative life we are called to through baptism.

         In a very real way, baptism is the journey we all go through, or at least it represents the journey of transformation.  In this journey, the first step is simply to take on the journey.  Some parents choose to have children and the journey begins. We choose to make changes to our lives and the journey begins.  There is preparation,  and, to some degree, letting go of preconceived notions of child-rearing and child-bearing when one has a child; we have to learn directly what it means to bear responsibility for a child.  In the journey of transformation, we have to let of that which holds us back. And then comes the birth itself, this new life comes forth for which we are responsible and to which there is an infinite possibility; this new life represents so much… hope, love, possibility, family and kin, the earth and creation.  In the journey of transformation, this stage is the stage of receiving a gift or an “aha” moment.  And the last stage, which Everlee has before her, is the stage of becoming.  What will she become?  What will we become?  What gift of life will we live out fully and fruitfully?  How will we participate with God in the labour of creating life, hope, and love for others?

         In baptism, we agree to the journey of faith, this journey with our mid-wife God of love.  And then, preparing for baptism, as part of our journey through life, we go through challenges and struggles and have to learn or unlearn some of what it means to live with spirit and hope; what does it mean to live in relationship with a God of love?  What does it mean to share this life with so many?  And then there’s the baptism itself: water, harkening back to our birth, blessing, light and candle, the declaration that God is love and is everywhere present—in breath and light, in hope and compassion, in gift and joy. And then, as we rise from the waters of baptism, we are becoming.  We are always becoming.  We are becoming hope and love in the world.  We are becoming whatever we might do to live with fruitfulness and joy.

         Dear Everlee, so much is symbolized by your baptism today.  I hope one day you will learn this for yourself.  We go through these waters with you—even though we only sprinkle water on your forehead.  We embark on this amazing journey of life with you, for it is wondrous.  We are responsible for each other for we are called to respond in love and hope to one another as we collectively journey through our lives.  And in the face of hate and fear, we stand with our mid-wife God, labouring for hope and peace in the world.

         May the God who is with us every step of the journey of our lives, this journey of transformation and love, bless us all now.  Amen.

 


[1]See the article at https://www.christiancentury.org/article/first-person/delivered-through-waters.

 

 

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