Baptism, August 20, 2023
Glorious morning for outdoor service.
Wonderful day for baptism at the lake.
Jesus was baptized in the waters of the Jordan River
to mark the beginning of his ministry.
Ashlynn will be baptized in the waters of the Tennessee River
to mark her new life in Christ.
By water and the Holy Spirit, today, Ashlynn,
You officially join God’s family.
–it’s a great big family.
People who’ve lived and loved Jesus all their lives,
and people who have just come to know and love Jesus.
People who lived long ago and far away
and wore only long robes down to their feet,
And people living and breathing right now,
across the world and right here in Alabama,
wearing shorts and flip flops—all of us, followers of Christ,
Make up the family of God.
Like all families, though,
who come with their little peccadillos.
the family of God
Is Not perfect, by any means.
In our efforts to follow Christ, sometimes….
We do stupid things, We are too often selfish,
We speak more than we listen,
or we fail to speak out when someone needs us to.
We betray God’s trust in us.
But we are family of a gracious God,
who calls us again and again into relationship.
Who recalls for us the nature of our being, made in God’s own image, when we lose sight of who we are.
God remembers his promise of mercy.
to the covenant he made with his people,
is the whole story, the entire foundation of the Old Testament.
Jacob’s part of that story
we’ve been following in Genesis for some weeks now
is just one example.
In last week’s reading we finally get introduced to Joseph, Jacob’s favorite son. The son he gifted with a many-colored coat.
I hope you’ve seen brilliant play, Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, which tells this story in drama and song. In the opening scenes
Joseph sings a song entitled, Any Dream Will Do:
I wore my coat, with golden lining
Bright colors shining, wonderful and new
And in the east, the dawn was breaking
And the world was waking
Any dream will do
Joseph’s dream is bigger than life, not even he understands it.
I closed my eyes, drew back the curtain
To see for certain what I thought I knew
Far far away, someone was weeping
But the world was sleeping
Any dream will do
I think you know the gist of the story,
perhaps jealous and perhaps
tired of Joseph’s sanctimony, mock him and plot against him.
“Here comes this dreamer” they say,
deciding to throw him in a pit;
“we shall see what will become of his dreams now.”
A crash of drums, a flash of light
My golden coat flew out of sight
The colours faded into darkness
I was left alone
Jacob’s family, named Israel by God, shows family dynamics at their worst.
The brothers sell Joseph to slave traders, and he is taken to Egypt.
And still God does not abandon them.
You’ll have to read all the juicy parts of Joseph’s story on your own.
Genesis chapter 37 to chapter 45;
It is well worth the read—
the lectionary skips these chapters and has us pick up today
with Joseph’s brothers coming to Egypt, years laters.
They are in great need during a terrible drought.
They do not recognize their brother Joseph.
If you left Joseph in a pit, if you’d sold him years ago,
you would never think he’d be Pharoah’s head hauncho.
Joseph has some fun with his brothers
before he tells them who he is. But here he is.
Eventually Joseph has compassion on them, forgives them,
and invites them all to come live together as a family once again.
We are family of a gracious and merciful God,
Because God has a dream for us–
In the words of the wonderful South African Bishop Desmond Tutu,
“God’s dream is that you and I and all of us
will realize that we are family,
that we are made for togetherness, for goodness, and for compassion.”
Joseph’s brothers ignored this dream;
But God put it before them again,
And they learned the most important lesson of all
that God’s dream for them
is wrapped up in their brother’s dream.
God’s dream connects us, one with another.
What Joseph’s brothers forgot is that God’s love is life giving.
Love allows us to see the dreams of others as God does.
This is the family you join today, Ashlynn,
Striving to see and live into God’s dream for all of us.
Already you are making us better,
reminding us, as we recite together our own baptismal covenant today,
our promises to be the body of Christ.
Besides getting to dunk you in the river today, which is my favorite part,
saying the last promise of our covenant:
to respect the dignity of every human being, is my favorite part;
Besides that promise,
My favorite prayer in baptism is the ending prayer.
This is Where we tell God our dreams for you.
There are 4 of them.
“Give her, Lord, an inquiring and discerning heart”
— we wish you an incredible journey of faith ahead,
that you’ll embrace love where’ere you can,
and welcome mystery over certainty.
“Give her the courage to will and to persevere”
– like the Canaanite woman, we wish you to fiercely persevere!
She persisted. And in doing so, is One of only two persons
in Matthew’s gospel whom Jesus commends for having Great Faith.
“Give her, Lord, a spirit to know and to love you”
— we wish you a lifelong continuing relationship with the divine creator; be always curious.
“And, God, give her the gift of joy and wonder in all your works.”
— we hope and pray that Like Joseph, when you have the chance, you
choose forgiveness, choose reconciliation, that is the route to joy.
— we hope and pray, that like Joseph, you, too, will dream dreams.
Any Dream will do.
Thanks be to God.