The Epistle to Lottie June (on the Occasion of Her Baptism)
Jo, a servant and follower of Jesus Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit,
To Lottie June, a little kid whose brilliant headgear stands as a symbol of how rich and varied her journey of faith will be as she grows into her calling as a child of God, beginning today with her baptism at a font where many have been bathed in the saving love of Christ Jesus:
May grace and peace be yours in abundance and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit surround you all your days.
I came to Albany to serve among your sisters and brothers--and I mean, your sisters and brothers at St. John's, not only your actual sister and brother, Reagan and Sawyer--before you were even a twinkling in your Mom and Dad's eye. At the time of my arrival that twinkling was Sawyer--or it would be in a year or two.
I came among your family at St. John's and I figured I was a bit like St. Paul who came and went and didn't stay long in one place. But if I had come and gone like St. Paul or St. Peter or any other of those nomadic apostles, I would not have gotten to meet you. Also, I would have missed seeing a bunch of people I have been seeing every week now for nearly five years.
When I came among your family at St. John's, I already knew a bunch of them. From a long, long time ago. I knew them from when my own little daughter was getting baptized in the same font where you will be baptized today. She wore a polka dot dress. I still have that polka dot dress. And her younger sister wore it when she was baptized only a few years later--not here, but at the seminary where I was studying how to serve God with all my might and mind and gifts.
Your outfit is the same one that Sawyer wore when I baptized him. And Reagan wore it before him. And I think your dad wore it--I can't remember which side of the family it came from. But it is a baptismal outfit that others have worn before you. And that is what makes it super-special. Because that outfit means you are sharing with others not only your baptismal gown, but your baptism, as well.
A lot of the people here today were baptized in this font, just like my daughter was, just like you will be. A lot of them brought their kids and had them baptized in this font, too. It's a beautiful font and a special one. But you know what? The font doesn't really matter, even if we love this particular one.
Because what matters is that when I put water on your sweet little head and when I say the words to baptize you, you become linked with all the followers of Christ Jesus that ever, ever were. You will be part of a priesthood of all believers. And here's the best part: it doesn't depend on what you believe. I mean, that's the best reason of all for baptizing babies: it's the clearest evidence that faith isn't a matter of you thinking about God or a matter of you choosing to love God. No, baptism is God reaching out to you through this water and my words and saying, "Lottie June, darling, you are loved. You are claimed. You are God's daughter and God will never abandon you--not even for one little minute."
Lottie, I wish I could say that that means life is a bowl of cherries. But it doesn't mean that. Life is going to come at you and sometimes it will be amazingly joyful. And sometimes it will be amazingly hard. You will find joys that stagger you with happiness. And you will find strength to bear burdens you would rather not have to carry. And God's love will be with you every single step of the way.
How do we know that? How do I know that?
Because God's meaning for us is made clear in three significant ways--and that's why we celebrate Holy Trinity today.
Sometimes we call God "Father." But we could just as readily call God "Mother" or "Parent" or "Creator." Because this part of the wholeness and unity of God is the part that makes you and makes me--and also makes us creative makers ourselves. God the creator charges us with discovering and creating ourselves over and over and over throughout our lives. I'm sixty-one years old, Lottie. And God is still making me new, ever new. Even when I am old--and I'm not old yet--I won't be old. Because God is still calling me into this creation.
We call God "Jesus," too. This part of the wholeness and unity of God is the part that teaches us about justice and about love and about how we are supposed to live with each other. Jesus and his life make it pretty clear that he is all about righting wrongs and loving with an amazing and inclusive wingspan. And when you grow a little older, you'll learn that Jesus died because this imperfect and sometimes stupid world, didn't know what to do with such wondrous love. And so they killed it. They tried to kill it anyway.
But guess what? God's love can't be killed. And so Jesus rose up from death and spent time with his closest friends to let them know that love is stronger than death. It really, really is. Love is stronger than death.
Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would come to be with us and be with us forever. This part of the wholeness and unity of God is the part that is with us always, as close to us as our very breath. The Holy Spirit is also called the Advocate or the Comforter. She is associated with wisdom and with guiding us into all the ways we're supposed to live that Jesus modeled in his life and that God the creator calls us to discover. She keeps us on the right track, does the Holy Spirit.
And yes, Lottie, I called her "she." I called her "she" because God is not a man's name. God is so, so, so much bigger than being a man or a woman. God confounds categories. And I know, "confound" is kind of a big word. But it means that nothing can hold back the wonder, the love, the ever-newly-revealed God.
Today that God washes you in a bath of love and names you as a daughter.
This is very cool, Lottie. This is cool, indeed. Indeed, this is wondrous.
So this is your letter, Lottie, on the day of your baptism. Someday you will be able to read it yourself. And that is cool, too. (Be sure to ask your sister, Reagan, about how much fun it is to learn to read. And Sawyer, when he is older.)
Say hi to your family for me. Tell them that I pray for them and I hope that we can all pray for each other. And I hope that we can thank God for each other, not just our own families, like yours with Mommy and Daddy and Reagan and Sawyer, but our St. John's one, as well. And I hope we can pray for all the world, too, that we can serve it with joy and with wild imagination and with hopefulness, the hopefulness that we find in our Three-in-One God.
And Lottie, the grace of our Savior, Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you. Always.