An image of people standing in Paris, throughout France and the world, holding up a sign Je Suis Charlie. I am Charlie. Others holding up a pen or pencil. A show of solidarity in the midst of great sadness and darkness, for the victims, for freedom of speech/press and the people gathered.
Again people honoring the fallen throughout France. #JeSuisAhmed – I am Ahmed. This time a Police Officer, executed on the street defending the magazine that belittled his faith and others. And the people gathered to remember.
#NotAfraid – the people took to the streets. Thousands. Even in sadness, even in the darkness, they gathered together and were not afraid.
I think about the words of Jesus, told to us in the Gospel of Matthew, “What I say to you in the darkness, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, announce from the rooftops. Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body but can’t kill the soul. Instead, be afraid of the one who can destroy both body and soul…”
Do not be afraid is what Jesus is telling us. To walk with him and to share the light he gives in the darkness of our times. As I think about our Sunday, our time when we remember the baptism of Jesus, those phrases, those images from France, stick with me because they are significant for our understanding of Baptism.
In baptism we are named before God. JeSuis – I am
At birth, our child is named. And at baptism, we present our child to God and the congregation - “I present Name to receive the Sacrament of Baptism.”
Very simple and yet it ritually reminds us that we are placing our child before God & the Church.
“Will you be responsible for seeing that the child you present is brought up in the Christian faith and life? Will you by your prayers and witness help this child to grow into the full stature of Christ?”
The next questions asked to parents and godparents, reminds us that in this act of naming the child we are taking vows of responsibility for raising up our child in the Christian faith and life which we means we have to live our faith through our prayers and witness.
Then after some prayers together, the child is baptized with water in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. And with the oil of chrism, is sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ's own for ever. Each time being named before God.
And it is then, we tell the newly baptized that they are received into the household of God. To Confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection, and share with us in his eternal priesthood.
Confess, proclaim and share. That is what we help to raise up in these baptized children. And if we do it right, the results may just stun us.
Kailey was about to turn eight. When her mom and dad asked her what she wanted for her birthday, Kailey's request stunned them.Confess, proclaim and share.
She wanted shoes. Three-hundred-fifty pairs of them, to be exact. Her parents did not take her request too seriously, but Kailey asked again and again.
Kailey saw a story on the Disney Channel about another girl who collected shoes for children in need and Kailey decided that's what she wanted to do. Kailey thought it would be neat to pass shoes on to other kids who needed them to be able to do the same things she enjoys doing, like go to school and play outside.
So, for her birthday, she asked for 350 pairs of shoes. Her parents posted the request on Facebook and Kailey's birthday request went viral. The response exceeded their wildest expectations. Kailey was receiving packages and donations every day for weeks after the posting. "Kailey's Fantabulous Footwear," as she named the project, collected more than 400 pairs of shoes. Kailey and her family donated the shoes to Cradles to Crayons, a nonprofit organization that provides children living in homeless or low-income situations with the essential items they need to thrive at home, at school and at play.
Kailey's parents are understandably proud. Her mother says the lesson in generosity was the greatest gift. "Listen to your kids when they want to do something . . . get them involved in the community, let them come and help." "It's emotional," Kailey's proud dad says. "It just makes you feel so good that we've raised a child who cares to take care of others before she takes care of herself."
A little girl's generosity "tears open the heavens," enabling the love of God to come down and fill her small corner of the earth with hope and joy. As God expresses his pleasure in his Beloved Son at Jesus' baptism in today's Gospel, God speaks his same joy and love in our own simple and ordinary attempts to imitate Jesus' compassion, justice and reconciliation.
May we love our neighbors as Jesus did; JeSuis Charlie, Ahmed, our neighbors nearby and far away…
May the Spirit we received at our baptisms continue to move us to do the work of Jesus' Gospel, to "tear open the heavens" and give voice to the love of God in our homes and schools and communities and churches. May we share that light of Christ in the darkness of today. For we follow Jesus Christ and we are not afraid. Amen.