Texts: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; Isaiah 40:31
This morning we are celebrating baptism. Tennison G and Andrew N will soon be baptized, and it is a chance for each of us to remember the meaning of our own baptism and how that continues to shape our lives. It was meaningful to Tennison and Andrew to be baptized in this natural setting at retreat; and for Tennison this place, Camp Luz, has been an especially important part of his life. And we’ve ordered the weather to be warm enough that we can all enjoy being outside to witness the baptisms, and cool enough that these guys are really going to have to want to get baptized to get in that lake.
So here’s how we plan to proceed. I’m going to give a brief meditation based on these scriptures that have been chosen. Then there will be a chance for Andrew and Tennison to share a little bit about their faith journeys and for their sponsors, Andy KK for Andrew and Austin K for Tennison to give affirmation and blessings. After this part of the service is done we will reconvene by the lake and have a couple baptisms.
The scripture that Tennison has chosen for today comes from Ecclesiastes 3. There is a season and a time for everything. It begins by saying, “a time to be born and a time to die,” and proceeds to name some of the many things which happen in between that span of birth and death. A time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time for war and a time for peace. On that last one, let’s agree that the time for war is over, and the time for peace is here.
Each of these couplets is paired together in such a way that they give the sweet right alongside the sour, even the bitter. A time to laugh, and a time to weep. For every bit of goodness, there is an accompanying hardship. This can be both comforting and a reason for pause.
Are you in mourning? Be comforted. There will also be times to dance.
Are you building up, sewing together, embracing? Remember. There will also be times of breaking down, of tearing part, of refraining from embracing.
Being baptized is neither an exemption from nor a reduction of the odds that one will encounter the more difficult experiences that time brings our way. Jesus even teaches that his followers can expect to experience more difficulties and hardships. If life is too easy, we might be doing something wrong! Baptism does not provide a way out of the darker and more painful parts of life, but it does provide a particular way of walking through those experiences. An orientation. A way of seeing. A way of interpreting. Our baptismal identity gives us a particular way of being in time, a particular way of relating to time, and all of the very human joys and sorrows that time holds.
The verse that Andrew has chosen is from Isaiah 40:31 “Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” In our conversations leading up to today Andrew mentioned that this was the verse that was highlighted for him by his parents in the Bible that he received from this church as a seven year old. It’s one he has continued to come back to especially when he has not felt like he was soaring like an eagle. So these Bibles and verses that we give our children do have some lasting meaning. Good news!
This is one of those pieces of scripture that we are drawn to precisely because it speaks of impossible things. Who can run without getting worn out? Even Forest Gump had to admit he was tired after a while. How can we mount up with wings like eagles? But there it is, in the text. Those who wait for the Lord. Those who trust in the graciousness of Ultimate Reality to renew us, to strengthen us in our weakness, to offer impossible gifts during impossible times. This is how you walk, and keep walking, and not faint. A particular way of being within time that involves opening oneself to this gift, often hidden but miraculously present and available.
Today, for Tennison and Andrew, is a time to be baptized.
This is one day of your life.
If you should happen to live to be 85 years old, lets say, this day of your baptism represents 1 out of 31,025 days. Put that in a fraction and it’s a very low percentage of time and life experiences you will have. But the beautiful thing about baptism, is that it carries with it this density of meaning, this expansiveness of significance, that it is now something that will be present with you through the rest of the days of your life. You will live with a baptismal identity. You do not have to know now what all this means, but we, as your church family, encourage you to consider that what it means will continue to take on depth and richness throughout your life. You’ve already heard from Austin and Andy that their baptism means something different to them now than when they were baptized, and it will continue to mature for all of us.
There is a time for everything. A time to be baptized, and the rest of the time to figure out what that means for your life.