On Wednesday, July 22, at 1:44 p.m., this is a text I was so glad to send: Welcome to the world, Baby Charlotte. We’re glad you’re here.
And today, October 4, I'm really happy to say this: Welcome to St. Augustine’s Church, Baby Charlotte, where you will be baptized in a little while. I understand that you like baths! We’re going to baptize you at the same font where your mom and your godmother, Auntie Lizzie, were baptized, in the same church where they were both confirmed, which is the same church where we prayed and sang your grandfather, Bill Thullen, out of this life and into the next.
I never had the chance to meet your Grandpa Bill. But I got to know him in the same ways that you will, by hearing stories of who he was, stories your family told, stories they will tell you too. You’ll hear about how he loved to do yard work, and how he loved to organize things like numbers and files, and places like the attic, how he slept here at church a few times a year so that people who didn’t have houses to live in would have a place to stay until they did. You will hear, Charlotte, about how very much he loved his family, and his neighborhood, and his friends, and this church.
A year after your Grandpa Bill’s funeral, it was a blessing to pray the blessing of your mom and dad when they got married. You will hear some good stories about that day too, and some that are a little bit funny…now…like the one about the priest who was very serious about all of the people in the wedding remembering to sign the marriage license right afterwards, but then who maybe, just a little bit, forgot to sign the marriage license herself.
You will make and tell stories of your own, Charlotte Marie, right here at St. Augustine’s and out in the world. We will tell the story of your godparents, your Auntie Lizzie and Uncle Walter, who promise today to love you always, to raise you up in good faith as the child of God you are. We will tell about lighting the candle of your baptism, which is the very same candle that the Rev. Joe Mazza lit when your mom was baptized right here. We’re going to light it from the same big paschal candle that burned while we prayed and sang our way through your Grandpa Bill’s funeral.
Welcome, Baby Charlotte Marie. Welcome to this family in which you are a gift of legacy. We belong to you. And you belong with us. And that is what we acknowledge together, today, as we baptize you and welcome you into this household of God.
We have more stories to share with you. Some of those stories tell about who we are – like the first story today that your godfather, Uncle Walter, read – about how God loved us too much to leave us alone. So God made creatures, like your dogs Artie and Phoebe, to be our companions. And when that wasn’t quite enough, God did more. God created us in partnership with and for one another – bone of bone, and flesh of flesh.
Some of the stories we have to tell are confusing, like the one about the people coming to Jesus in the gospel that I had to read just a little while ago. The people were testing Jesus. They were trying to trick him in a way that proved him wrong. And what Jesus said about divorce and adultery can seem harsh and unkind. Sometimes people – even people in church – have taken Jesus’ words and used them to be harsh and unkind to other people. So we need each other in those moments, Charlotte. We need each other, to remember that the people who were testing Jesus cared a whole lot less about what Jesus said than they did about proving him wrong. We need each other to remember, like your dad the lawyer will one day teach you, that the law was never meant to do people harm. Instead, God gave us the law to help us all take care of the people who are smallest and the most vulnerable, who need the most protection: like children, like babies, like you.
Some of the stories we have to tell will never make sense, and shouldn’t, and can’t, Baby Charlotte. Because this world, as it is, is not the world as it should be. People get lost in terrible ways. Sometimes, and even more than sometimes, they hurt one another. Sometimes, and even more than sometimes, they kill each other. It happened this week in the place where I come from, in Oregon. It happened this week in Chicago, a place very close to where we are right now. And it happened for awful reasons…and for no reason at all. So we need you. We need you to remind us that God calls us each and all to work together to help create a world that is safe and beautiful for you to grow up in, and for Baby Grace, and for Baby Piper, and for Flora and Violet and Brady and Jack and Taylor and Lauren and Teddy and Anthony and Robbie and Clare and Allison and Sadie and Asher and Daniel and Anderson and Angus and Julia and Jake and Rachel and Jasmine and Rosie and all the other small people and babies who are part of this community and every community. We need you. Because we all have moments when we have to remember that we’re a lot like you – a little bit vulnerable, in need of somebody who watches out for us, someone who will reassure us that we’re not alone, who will care for us when we can’t quite do that for ourselves.
Most people didn’t pay much attention to babies like you during Jesus’ time, Charlotte. I’m embarrassed to say that, but it’s true. Babies and children were kept off to the side, out of the way of adults – especially fancy adults with money and lots of power. But in this story about Jesus today, moms and dads like yours tried to bring their own babies and children to Jesus. And the really embarrassing thing about that part of the story is that even Jesus’ disciples – his friends, the people who followed Jesus all around and tried to learn all the things he taught – even they were harsh and unkind to the moms and dads, and to the children and babies.
So Jesus stopped them. “This is the way the world is supposed to be,” he said to the people who had tried to trick him into making a mistake, and to the people who were his friends but who had lost sight of what was most important. “The world as God means it to be, is a world where even the smallest people belong and are as important as everybody, everybody, everybody else.” And so he picked up the children, he picked up the babies. He picked them up in his own arms, and he blessed them.
That’s what we’re going to do right now, Baby Charlotte Marie. We're going to carry you to the font of our salvation, the font of your mother and godmother, where we will welcome you with singing and prayer and water and oil and light. And joy, Charlotte; we'll welcome you with the joy that is your legacy as well. We will welcome you into this sacred and growing family that is yours and ours, and has been for a long, long time.
Together, we will welcome you into this household of God.