A Fresh Start

October 8, 2017

A Fresh Start

I met with parents Kevin and Marybeth to talk about their baby Noah’s upcoming baptism a couple of weeks ago. It was one of those uncharacteristically hot September afternoons. We were all tired. Little Noah lay cradled in his mother’s arms, sound asleep. He was so sound asleep that as we chatted, gravity would somehow take control of his head. It would begin to roll away from his mother’s arm and he’d snap it back up into position, never waking or making any sound at all. He clearly knew in whose arms he lay and was thoroughly content.  It seemed that there was nothing that could bother him. The three who sat before me were the picture of a perfectly beautiful family. I couldn’t have been more excited to play a part in the baptism. I told them that the ceremony itself was really quite simple. They would be answering a series of questions and saying “I do” or “We do” a lot. But I did let them know that even though the ceremony itself was simple, it was, in fact, a very big deal. The baptism of their son would be big deal because they would be committing their son to Christ and in the process, provide the entire congregation, including themselves with the opportunity to reaffirm their rejection of evil and their commitment to Christ. They would be in God’s sanctuary taking part in a holy sacrament, a means of grace from God to provide us with an opportunity to come close to Him, to exercise our relationship with Him, to receive His love. John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, taught that God’s grace is unearned and that we were not to be idle waiting to experience grace but we are to engage in the means of grace. The means of grace are ways God works invisibly in disciples, hastening, strengthening; and confirming faith so that God's grace pervades in and through disciples.

The baptism ceremony is simple yet that which goes unseen by the human eye, the effects on the heart and soul of all who participate in a baptism, either as a pastor, a parent, or a congregant are profound.  During the sacrament of baptism the hearts and souls of all present have united with God the Father and in doing so, become united with each other as brothers and sisters in His love.

Noah has become the newest member of God’s family. He is God’s child and our newborn Christian brother. Just as a family feels overwhelming thankfulness and joy over the birth of a new baby, the Lord rejoices that He has a new son or daughter to care for, lead and love with each baptism. As baptized Christians, we are privileged to know that we are all members of the same strong, healthy family and our Lord is the head of the household.

So, what are strong, healthy families made up of? There are older, more experienced, and respected leaders. These leaders teach the children what they need to know, lay down rules, often for the children’s own protection, encourage the children, provide for them, discipline them when necessary, forgive them for wrong doing out of love and inspire them to strive to do grow to be a better person. All of this is done out of love for the children. Cost and repayment never enters the leaders minds because all they do for the child is done out of love. This is God, the head of our Christian family, guiding, teaching, providing for and inspiring us because He loves us unconditionally.

Family members, brothers and sisters, take care of each other. When one is in trouble, one that is not comes to help. When one is confused and doesn’t know where to go, another will come take his hand and lead him to safety. When one has lost sight of what is right and what is wrong, other family members provide a guiding light. When a brother sins against another brother, there is forgiveness and reconciliation. For a family member is far too dear to lose, each one is a precious gift. In a family, when any member faces difficulty or starts down a dark path, their loved ones will seek to help them and guide them toward a better future. As a son or daughter of God, as a member of His family, we are expected by our Father to do those very things for our brothers and sisters. Jesus tells us, “Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are to love one another.” He loves us. So we need to love our brothers and sisters.

But, how can we tell who is and who is NOT a brother or sister in Christ? How are we supposed to know who we’re supposed to be watching out for, who’s in our family, who we’re supposed to shine God’s light for? There are a lot of people out there making horrible choices, facing great need and hurting. If we see someone who needs guidance, love and inspiration should we ask them when they were baptized or if they’ve accepted Christ as their personal savior?  If we know that they have rejected Christ, are we supposed to love them, help them? In 1 Peter chapter 2 we read: “You are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for He called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light.”

As Jesus walked his way to the cross, did He only save people He found worthy or did He speak and let people hear His message and follow Him? Jesus didn’t look for accomplishments and righteousness, He looked for need, faith and the potential to be part of his flock. We heard Him call to our own needy, sometimes shattered, sometimes guilt ridden hearts and in the moment of our baptism He washed all of that away and replaced it with his forgiveness, his love and his light. We know that there are some, like little Noah, whose loved ones have secured a position for them in God’s family and have been baptized by the Holy Spirit. They have asked for membership in God’s family and are recognized by him as His beloved child. But just as Jesus taught, saved, and hoped for all of the people He came in contact with, we have to know that every person is a child of God. It’s simply that they may not know it yet.

I recently joined the Westport Emergency Squad. I’m not an EMT… yet ... but I want to help and I decided that I could be the self-designated prayer warrior in the ambulance. I go on calls and have come to know some of the people on the squad. I know that there are some who are Christians and some who believe that God is just a nice idea. But I’ve seen all of these people enter the doorways of people’s homes on their darkest days. Children are hurt or lost, possibly drowned, husbands are dying, yet, they go from their families, their warm beds at all hours of the day or night to help strangers, to bring aid and comfort just because they want to help. They love their neighbors. Baptized or not, these people ARE children of God. They just may not have heard the call. It is our job as His children, as brothers and sisters in Christ to carry that message through our words and deeds so they will hear His call.

Through baptism, we become recognized by God as one of His children, bearers of the good news that Jesus died for us so that we would be forgiven for our sins past, present and future and always have his love surrounding us. We are his chosen people, but there are more of us out there, lost brothers and sisters who need to be found so they can receive the Holy Spirit and be recognized as brothers and sisters in Christ. “Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; nor does it give light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works,” and in this way we can help all of God’s children come out of the darkness and come home into his wondrous light.

Norma Goff