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Baptism into Preparation

By Rev. Dr. Fritz Ritsch
November 28, 2021
Baptism of Lochlan Anthony Faron Dauphinot Luke 25: 25-36

It is a bit odd to be using Jesus’ sermon on the end of days on a day when we celebrate a new life. Today we will be baptizing baby Lochlan into the church of Jesus Christ and into the new life of God’s grace. We celebrate that God already loves Lochlan before he has a chance to do anything to earn that love. We rejoice that in baptism he participates in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We welcome him into the Church Universal, the chosen clan of those who bear the name of our Lord Jesus. And we’re doing it by reading one of the grimmest passages of Jesus’ teachings: his warning about the coming end of days. Could be viewed as kind of a downer. And yet, after Jesus describes the signs in the earth and seas and skies and the “fear and foreboding of what is to come in the world,” he says, “Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Well. I’d say we’ve been dealing with fear and foreboding of what is to come in the world, to put it mildly. The recent news of a new omicron variant of the Coronavirus tops off two years of pandemic lockdown that we all are hoping will soon be over. We’ve seen restlessness and violence, climate change, economic uncertainty, the works. We may feel like the End Times are right around the corner. So did many people in the years between 1914 and 1921, experiencing the first war ever fought by the entire world and also a worldwide pandemic, the Spanish Flu. Heaven knows it must have felt that way for Americans experiencing World War Two on the heels of the Depression on the heels of the Dust Bowl on the heels of the 1929 Stock Market Crash. My generation experienced it with the assassination of John F. Kennedy, nuclear attack drills in school, the Civil rights movement and protests against the war in Vietnam, Watergate and Kent State and the Domino Theory which had us all in terror of communism. My kids’ generation has been through it with 9/11, a generation-long war in the Middle East, and the Pandemic. There is, in short, plenty of fear and foreboding to go around for each and every generation. There is plenty of reason to believe we are living in the End Times, that like Fred Sanford used to say, “This is it! This is the big one!” And yet, Jesus tells us, “Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” “Because your redemption is drawing near.” This is the difference between being a believer in Jesus Christ and a believer in something else. We believe in the crazily contradictory idea that in the midst of disaster, Jesus Christ will redeem us—that no matter how dark things get, we can trust in God. And so we can stand up when others are hunkered down, we can hold our heads high in the absolute confidence that no matter how bad things get God’s love shown us in Jesus Christ can sustain us and make us stronger, more resilient, better people. That in the midst of the travails of the world, Jesus can make us righteous people, good people, people with a deep and profound relationship with God that gives us the ability not only to withstand and overcome the travails of our time on earth, but also in the process to give hope, succor, and kindness to others who pass along this journey with us. We stand up and hold our heads high because our redemption is drawing near. It is a call to courage, confidence and goodness in the face of the particular challenges of the age to which God calls us on this earth. I think it is safe to predict that Lochlan and his generation will face their own unique set of challenges and have to navigate them the best way they know how. Given how history goes, we can’t promise today that his life will be free of some new and unique fear and foreboding to come upon the world. When we baptize him today we are not promising him peace and prosperity and happiness, though we hope he has all of that. None of us is promised any of that. What we can promise him, the whole reason we are here today, is that when he faces the inevitable challenges of his particular generation and his own personal life, he can stand up and raise his head, because his redemption is drawing near. In fact, his redemption is assured, because God already loves him and holds him in the palm of God’s hand. He is already loved by the love that sustains the universe. Putting some water on his head doesn’t make any of that true, of course. It doesn’t assure that he will automatically have the faith he will need to see redemption in the midst of travail. And that’s where our promises as his family and as the church of Jesus Christ come into play. It is our job to teach him the truth of how much God loves him, so that he will have the spiritual resources to face and overcome the challenges ahead. It is our job to prepare him for the unique historic and personal challenges that Lochlan will face by giving him a faith that believes that he is loved by God and that Jesus Christ died and rose for him; by teaching him the courage to live life fully and faithfully in spite of all the temptations that could make him lose hope; and most importantly, to live a life reflective of the Gospel of Jesus Christ—a life of love, forgiveness, and willingness to sacrifice for the sake of others. This last is especially important because the greatest temptation in the face of the challenges of life is to dig yourself a hole and pull it in with you—to live selfishly, to live in a me-first, survival of the fittest fashion—to forget that God’s love which sustains you is a love that must be shared with others, that indeed our ability to love as God has first loved us is the single most important responsibility that Jesus calls us to when we face the crises, disasters and apocalypses peculiar to our particular time on earth. God gives us Lochlan as a blank slate on which we, the family of God, are called to write the faith, courage, and love which Jesus wants us to have as the tools in our Christian toolbox to face the challenges of his time on earth standing up, head raised up, assured that his redemption is drawing near. Today we promise to do that, as we have with those of the all the generations that have preceded his, giving them the spiritual resources to face the challenges of their day trusting in God’s redemption. We gladly promise this day to provide the same for Lochlan, confident in the grace of Jesus Christ which holds him, and us, in the palm of God’s hand.

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