Today’s lessons, are hard and frankly confusing. Empires as weird beasts, spiritual whiplash in our psalm, poor people being blessed and woe’s to folks who are doing OK. I don’t know about you all, but despite 40 years in the church I keep being surprised. I keep expecting the lessons for All Saints, and Baptism Sundays to be warm and fuzzy. I want lessons that make me feel better about this big crazy world. And you all, people I love, I want to be able to hand you a Bible verse that makes everything better. Instead, we get apocalyptic visions, and Luke’s backward blessings and woes.
Gemma and Noah (and your families), I want to tell you that from here on out things will be easy. That you will be made perfect, that you will become a spiritual super hero, ultra pious and always happy. But being baptized, doesn’t make you perfect. I’m a very good example of that, so are the other folks in this room!
So. If baptism isn’t about getting your ticket to that golden heaven train, or becoming perfect, or moving onto easy street what the heck is it about? And in answer to that question I have another one. 😉 How good are you (and this is for all of us) at living with Mystery? How good are you at eating breakfast with Mystery every morning, and walking to school with Her, with going to sleep next to Her every night. How good are you at getting answers, that are really questions, to your questions that really need answers. Because that is what we have for you here today. We have water, that is a tomb, and a salty sea, and a shallow muddy river, and the chaos of creation. We have a tomb, that’s a womb, that means life, and life that means death. And we have a God who sides with the wrong people, every time.
If we had a proper god I could tell you that getting baptized means you are set. I could hand you a golden ticket to a future heaven and tell you to have a fun life until then. I could give you a list of rules to follow and prayers to say and you’d be blessed with health and wealth and all the other “good things” of this world. The proper kind of god would raise you up above all those who didn’t worship him. But we don’t have a proper god at all, and our lessons today are good reminder of that. We’ve got Mystery.
See, we’ve got this God who doesn’t chose people because they are nice, smart, obedient or good dancers! We’ve got this God who doesn’t give nice things to nice people, and bad things to bad people. And we’ve got a church full of “saints” who aren’t any such thing (probably because our weird God has such low standards)! Here’s this room full of people, remembering all those saints that went before us, and not a single one of us, or them, is worthy of that word. We’re too human. We fight with each other, all the time, over stuff that really doesn’t even matter. We mess up, and we trip up, and we do our best to pretend we’re not human. All these people, washed in baptism, all still humans messing stuff up.
So here we stand with Noah and Gemma, ready to dive into these baptismal waters that have been so misunderstood, with a God who is mystery and who does everything backward. Where does that leave us?
It leaves us with good news. The good news is God’s backwards vision is something we can build, here and now. The good news is baptism is just the start of a journey that will last Gemma and Noah’s lifetime; that will last all of our lifetimes. Our Baptismal life is a long journey of getting lost, and found, and lost again. Of wandering down wrong paths and finding ourselves been rescued by a God who never seems to give up: over and over again. Those of us who are baptized, those who are about to become baptized: God doesn’t expect you to be perfect, God isn’t taking away your humanity. You will remain yourselves after you have died and risen again through this little baptismal sea. God doesn’t mind the messiness of your humanity, in fact I suspect it’s one of the things God loves about you. You will remain just as wonderful and flawed as you were a few minutes ago, ask any of us who have been wonderfully flawed for the last handful of decades.
Our God hangs out with real people, with you and I in a real and broken world that God still finds beautiful. We don’t come up out of the tomb-womb waters perfect and plastic. We rise up to a life that is complex and rich, a life of community in this mysterious Body of Christ. There is no place here for perfection. But there is welcome for our secret suffering, there is balm for our hidden wounds. There is a hand to lift us when we’ve stumbled, every time.
Gemma and Noah are being invited on a journey today, the rest of us are invited to renew our own journeys. To walk with God and with one another on a great adventure. It won’t be perfect, and it probably won’t be easy. Our ancestors bear witness to that. But if we look passed the strange sayings and the weird images in our scriptures we see a common thread in the witness of all the authors of our sacred stories: they met and fell in love with a God who was faithful. A God who once embraced them, and loved them, and continually encouraged them to take the next step down the road toward something better, and bigger, and more holy than what is now. Noah and Gemma take their first steps today, if you are taking your forth or your millionth, or you haven’t even started yet I invite you to join them: God’s waiting hand held out, to walk with you.