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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A Baptismal Letter

Matthew 22:34-46
James McTyre
Lake Hills Presbyterian Church PCUSA
October 23, 2005

For the sermon this morning, I have a letter that I’d like to share. It’s a letter written from me to Alexandria Melody Kaur Singh. It’s a letter about God and about her. I don’t think she’ll understand all of it. But that’s OK, because nobody understands all of what God has to say or who God is, or even who we ourselves are. But we try. We preach sermons, we write letters, we send emails, we call on the cell phone, we fax. Occasionally we even talk to each other. How we communicate the good news of Jesus Christ isn’t important. The medium is not the message. So sometimes we preach, sometimes we sing, and sometimes we write letters.

Dear Alexandria Melody Kaur Singh,

Hi. I’m James and I’ll be your pastor. I’m the guy with the big, wet hand who held you and walked you around the sanctuary a few minutes ago. I’m a minister, but I’m also a dad, so I have some idea how proud your family is of you. That’s pretty cool. You don’t have to do anything, and everybody thinks you’re adorable. Especially your grandparents. Just between us, they’re the ones you want to talk to when your mom says No. But if anyone asks, you never heard me say that.

You’re blessed to be part of a wonderful family. But this morning, you got adopted into an even bigger family. This morning, we baptized you. I got my hand all wet and put it on your forehead, and said some words about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. People have been saying these same words over babies just like you for a long, long time. “I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” It’s something we do in public to tell the world who we are. It’s something Jesus told us to do. He told us that whenever we baptize anyone – young or old – he’s right there with us, watching, helping, giving us the words to say. When we baptize, we believe Jesus is with us. Jesus is with us. But that’s only half the story.

We also believe that when we baptize, we’re with Jesus. We’re with Jesus. And that’s really important. We believe that when we baptize anyone – young or old – it’s like a ceremony of adoption. When we baptize, we’re showing the world that God is adopting us into God’s family. That means that Jesus isn’t just with us; it means Jesus is now our brother. And we’re his sister or brother. It’s like God is like a very, very grand parent who sits back, sighs a big sigh, and says, “Now. You’re officially part of the family.”

Alexandria Melody Kaur Singh, you’re officially part of God’s family. You always were part of God’s family. But now, it’s official. And all the people here are witnesses. They saw it happen. And they’ll tell you all about it someday. They’ll tell you what was true from the moment you were born: You are a child of God. We’ve always known that. But now we’ve said it out loud. You are a child of God, a sister of Jesus Christ, an adopted member of a holy family that will surround you with their spirit and their prayers. And that, my child, means a few other things.

First, it means you’ve got a long list of other relatives you’ll need to know about. You’ve got a very grand father, Abraham, and a very grand mother, Sarah. Abraham had a late-life crisis and couldn’t stay in one place very long. Sarah laughed out loud at God. You’ve got two older twin brothers, Jacob and Esau, who fought so much they even fought with each other in their mother’s tummy. You’ve got an uncle named, Moses, who wasn’t very good with a map, but was very good at directions. He gave us commandments. Those are directions that’ll help you learn more about who you are. And, if by some stretch of the imagination you ever misbehave, the commandments will help you learn what’s right.

You have a grand mother named, Mary. Mary listened to angels. Mary had a baby. And she named the baby, Jesus, because that’s what the angels told her to do. We’ll talk more about Jesus in a minute. You’ve got twelve uncles called, The Disciples. They weren’t very good fishermen, but they were good at listening to Jesus and then telling other people what he said and what he was like.

And, Alexandria Melody Kaur Singh, you’ve got a room full of brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles, and step-moms and step-dads, right here. And, like the rest of the family, we’re not perfect (except for Jesus). We aren’t a perfect family, but, you know what? God has adopted us, too. God loves us, too. God has said that we’re his children, just as you’re God’s child. That’s more than cool.

Now, a minute ago, I said I’d tell you more about your brother, Jesus. There’s so much to tell. Someday you’ll be about to read about him in our book, the Bible. Someday you’ll hear Sunday School teachers and Bible School teachers tell stories about Jesus. But here’s what I want to tell you today.

One day, some people asked Jesus what was the most important thing in the world. Was it one of Moses’ commandments? Was it following every rule so God would never be mad at you? No. Jesus said it was something else. Jesus told them there’s one most important thing in the world, but it has two parts.

The first part of the most important thing in the world is: Love God. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” The first part of the most important thing in the world is: Love God.

The second part of the most important thing in the world is like the first part, but different. The second part says: Love your neighbor. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

It sounds like two different rules, but really it’s just one. Because if you really love God, you’ll love your neighbor. And if you really love your neighbor as much as you love yourself, you’ll show your neighbor that you love God. One most important thing, with two parts.

You probably think it’s funny that we have to have a commandment to tell us to love God and each other. You probably think, “Well, what else would people do?” When your mom holds you so tight, when your grandmother sings you a song to help you go to sleep – when people spend their days and nights doing things like that, what’s not to love? Of course you love. It’s the natural thing to do.

Well, it was like that for most of us, too. But part of growing up and getting big is growing apart. It happens to everyone. The people we love still want to hold us in their arms, and we want to hold them right back. But as we get bigger, the space between our arms and their arms gets bigger, too. So Jesus reminds us – Jesus commands us – to fill that space with love. Love is the only thing that makes us right again, the way we started out to be, the way you are right now.

Being baptized as a child of God means you’re officially adopted into a family so big you can’t believe it. But your baptism also means that no matter how big you get, God’s love is always bigger. If you ever feel lost or alone, God’s love is the way back home. If you remember to love God and love the people around you – whoever they are – you’re on the right road.

So, Alexandria, welcome to the family. If you ever forget what that means, we’ll help you remember. And if we ever forget that that means, you can teach us. In a way, you already have, just by being here. Your baptism is our baptism. Your God is our God. Your brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and very great grandparents are ours, too. You are loved by the God who loves us all. Welcome to the family.