(Recently my daughter and son-in-law came for a visit bringing their baby, Finn, to meet his great-grandparents. He is the first great-grandchild. And on Sunday morning we did a “Rite of Blessing in Anticipation of Baptism.” It allowed the family here and the congregation to share in the baptismal rite that will come later in another state. This is from a portion of my sermon that day as published in the church newsletter.)
There are things I want to tell Finn, but he is not ready to hear them. I want to tell him about the beauty and grandeur of the world around us. I want to tell him about the Grand Canyon and the waterfalls at Yosemite in springtime. I want to take him to the Monterey Aquarium and talk about the mysteries of the deep. I want him to gaze into the wonder of those tiny flowers in the grass outside and the supple lines and color of a rose. I want him to watch with wonder the flight of a swallow and the migration of the monarchs and to hear crickets in the evening. I want him to see how seed turns to sapling turns to towering tree. I want him to walk among redwoods and see dogwoods in the spring.
I want him to know the beauty of the world. I want him to know its goodness before he learns its sorrows. I want him to play in a soft summer rain before he feels the power of a storm. I want him to see the wonder of a bird’s nest before he learns that other animals would prey on the babies. I want him to delight in bunnies in the yard before he worries about hawks overhead. I want him to know human kindness before he learns of human cruelty.
I want to tell Finn this story we have received of a world conceived in love, of a creation called into being by a divine Word and that God saw and declared all things good and noble and beautiful. I want to tell him this story that he is made of the dust of the earth and the breath of God. I want him to know that he was made to live in God’s presence and tend God’s garden.
I want Finn to now the goodness before he learns what happened in that garden, how humanity broke faith with God and broke the ties that bind all things together.
I want Finn to know the beauty of the earth before he tastes its tears. I want him to know the goodness of family before he learns about Cain and Abel and the bitter envy that tears the human family apart.
And I want Finn to hear the voice of God speaking to Cain, telling him that we can choose kindness and faithfulness. I want him to know we can choose to listen to the breath of God rather than the murmurings of bitterness and revenge.
There are so many things I want to tell Finn. I want to tell him of Abraham’s courage in trusting God’s promise, of Isaac’s love for Rebekah, of Jacob the cheat burning all his bridges and wrestling with God at the river Jabbok. I want to tell him of Joseph who forgave his brothers and Moses who stood before the burning bush. I want to tell him about Pharaoh’s hardness of heart and God’s determination to bring freedom to both the oppressors and the oppressed. I want to tell him about Sinai and the wilderness and the radical notion that God is a god who travels with us, that God is not a god of rock and stream but a God of love and mercy.
I want to tell him of the prophets. I want to tell him of the psalms of joy and the cries of lament. I want to tell him of the faithfulness of Ruth and the courage of Esther. I want to tell him about the gifts and call of God.
And I want to tell him about the child of Nazareth, the song of the angels and the message given to shepherds. I want to tell him about the boy Jesus in the temple and the grown man at the Jordan. I want to tell him about the words he spoke and the things he did. I want to tell him about Zacchaeus in the tree and the woman at the well and the banquet in the wilderness that fed five thousand families with twelve baskets left over.
I want to tell him about the empty tomb and the gift of the spirit and the dawn of God’s new creation in the world and in us.
I want to tell him about the women at the tomb and of Mary, the first witness. I want to tell him about the courage and faithfulness of Perpetua and her companion, Felicity, who were martyred in the arena, and how she guided the executioner’s hand when he faltered. I want to tell him about Francis of Assisi and Katy Luther and how Bach wrote “Soli Deo Gloria” – wholly to the Glory of God – on all his music.
I want to tell Finn of all the courageous men and women of faith and this wondrous mystery of the church gathered from every nation on earth to bear witness to the grace and mercy of God.
And I want to tell him about the promise of his baptism and the promise of the table. I want to tell him that there is mercy in our sorrows and strength in our challenges and hope, always hope, for the grave is empty and the arms of God are open to us and to all.
I want Finn to know all this. Even more, I want his parents to tell him these stories. And I want all of us to tell him these stories. I want the community of God’s people to uphold him in his journey and to uphold one another as we try to live Christ for the world.