Year A, Proper 24   On the Baptism of Zane Thomas Burke

Sunday October 16, 2005

Susan Langle

St. John the Baptist, Sanbornville

Isaiah 45:1-7

Dear Zane:

St. Matthew the Evangelist, St. John the Baptist, your sisters and parents and kith and kin - all of us who gather here today give thanks for you, Zane Thomas and greet you with these ancient words: Grace to you and peace.

We gather to proclaim God’s blessing that is upon you. In wonder, in we gather with thankful overflowing hearts amazed that you have come into this family as a gracious gift, a gift that will open itself over time. We look forward to watching the wriggling energy inside of you begin to escape. We know that soon, very soon, we will see elbows poking through the wrapping paper, knees stretching the ribbons until they burst and we will begin to see you in your fullness, we will start to hear the voice that is in you singing your own special song.

We gather to celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism. Get ready Zane. We are about to drown you, to name you, to anoint you and to enroll you in a Mission, set you on a journey, launch you on a Quest. Through this water and this oil and the promises we make in God’s presence we recognize you as God’s child, and as our child. We mark the entwining of lives – yours and ours, ours and God’s people everywhere – the entwining that creates in Christ a vision of a new human family, the entwined lives in which the Realm of God, the Kingdom of God can begin to be seen right here, right now.

Into the water you go. John the Baptist called all who would hear to repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near. As a sign of their desire to turn from their sins and to be united with God people streamed to the banks of the Jordan and were washed clean, marked as new people, freshly minted people, ready to start again to live in righteousness and truth. Even Jesus came to John at the river and there he heard the voice: you are my son, the Beloved.

Leaving behind their dirt, their bad choices, their self interested willfulness, those who emerge from the waters of baptism are declared new born, Beloved. Coming up from the waters they get a quick glance at the dove, returning to the mother ship with a branch of olive. Today Zane you are a new person, in a new land, reborn through these waters.

Graciously you have a new name: Zane Burke, Christian. The name is a powerful one. It claims you in ways you will find scary and exhilarating. Your family name marks you as someone whose greatest joy is NOT to watch your stock portfolio rise and fall. Your family name marks you as someone who is the servant of those in need, who so loves others that you can’t keep silent when evil stalks the earth. You are now part of a band of prophets; people who see what can be and strive to make it so. Living up to your name should get you in trouble.

Zane Thomas, you are not just an agitator for justice, a campaigner for peace, you are also a priest amid a priestly people. You are anointed, called to leadership. How will you lead? What Empire will you serve? Along the way there will be people asking you trick questions about which side you are on. Sometimes they are pretty slimy characters like the religious hotshots who tried to trip up Jesus. How could a faithful Jew pay taxes with coins proclaiming the supremacy of the Roman Regime? Sometimes the trick questions will come from your friends – “Why not?- just this once” “everybody does it” “no one will notice.” Zane we will help you to remember that you are made in the Image of God. You are beautiful, strong, beloved, and full of grace. Choose the good path. If your feet wander, stop, turn again, and choose the good path.

We promise to love you Zane Thomas, and, with God’s help, to show you the good path. We will do everything we can to keep you in the household of God. When you are looking for models for what Christ’s Loving Heart looks like in this era, in this place – look at us. But cut us some slack, look at us with eyes of love. We are a ragtag, far from perfect bunch. However if you can’t catch a glimpse of Christ in our faces, our hands, our words we will have failed you. If that happens, look elsewhere for the Body of Christ.

We promise to keep struggling to keep the covenant we are making with God and with you – today we promise to continue in the prayers and the breaking of the bread; we promise to keep resisting evil and to reflect on our responsibility for our actions that harm others, and that we will repent and return when we sin; we promise to proclaim by how we live our daily lives the Gospel of Christ; we solemnly commit ourselves to seek out and serve others in love, striving for justice and peace. We promise to be people of prayer and action in God’s world. And Zane, no matter what color you dye your hair, what body part you pierce, what music you love, and even when you break our hearts – We will love you. Remember this: We will love you.

Come on, Zane. Lets go on this marvelous Quest. Come with us as we join in God’s Project to reconcile the world. The Living God goes ahead of us, holding the light. God walks beside us – our brother Jesus, who knows how hard it is to live with integrity in troubled times. God sings the traveling songs we need to keep on going - within us the Holy Spirit hums. She will whisper in your ear. She will tap you on the shoulder. God will accompany you Zane, and God will accompany us as we go to meet the needs of a sore and sorrowing world around us. For we are a community of Baptized Christians, a chorus line from whose lives the word of the Lord sounds forth. Are you ready?

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