Easter Vigil March 31, 2018
Church of the Good Shepherd, Silver City, NM Rev. Dr. Paul Moore
Birth, Bath and Brightness
Here we have three boxes wrapped in shiny paper like presents. Would the three of you who will be baptized tonight please come forward? You can bring parents or friends with you if you like. One by one I will ask you to open them, and we’ll talk about what is in side.
Present 1: A bar of soap. When do you use this? When you take a bath. Soap has special stuff in it that changes the water so it washes away dirt and grime and all the nastiness that sticks to our body better than just plain water. It makes bubbles, and the bubbles dissolve the dirt and make it all wash away down the drain. It keeps you healthy and strong.
Remember the song we sang about the bones? Well, bones aren’t very healthy, are they? But the story says that in the vision God made all the bones come together and they became people and they became alive again, because God did it for them. It is really a story about Israel. They had messed up really badly, and they felt like they were all dead because they were guilty of such bad stuff. But God came and forgave them and made them feel and know again that he loves them. It’s kind of a bath that washes away your sins, all the stuff you’ve done that’s bad.
Tonight, we’re going to baptize you. We’re going to pour a little water on your head in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. It’s like a bath. The Holy Spirit changes the water, so that it washes away the guilt of all the bad things you’ve done. It’s a symbol and sign that in God’s eyes all that stuff has washed down his drain and doesn’t count anymore. You get a fresh start.
Present 2: A picture of a baby. What is this all about? We have a family in the church that has a brand-new baby. I went to see little Lane Door last week. He’s wrinkled and tiny and can’t hold up his head. He’s just a newborn and he needs lots of care, but he has a home with a family, and they are going to take good care of him, and we’re going to help as much as possible.
Tonight, we’re going to baptize you. Just as we read about how God created the world, we remember that God created you, and now re-creates you as a member of God’s family. Tonight, you are going to be born into the Family of God. You won’t be tiny and wrinkled, but you’ll need care. You have a family here, all the rest of us, and we’re supposed to help your mother and father and family take good care of you, to bring you to Church and feed you with good thoughts and ways to know what is right and good and beautiful. Tonight, we’re going to promise to do that, because tonight is your spiritual birth-day.
Present 3: A lit flashlight. Did you expect to find light in the dark insides of the box? No, but you did. Where else do you find light when you don’t expect it? Just as we began the church service outside and walked into a dark church, and then turned the lights on, it’s nice to find light in the darkness, isn’t it? That way you can see where you’re going and know better where you need to go and where you don’t.
Tonight, we’re going to baptize you. It’s going to be like finding God’s light inside you. God’s light began shining in you when you were born, and has been inside you, guiding you to do what is good and loving and helpful. Now the Church is going to recognize that gift of God. We call that the Holy Spirit, that divine light inside you helping you to do what you need to and should do and not do what you’re not supposed to do.
You see, baptism isn’t just for right now. It means being a baptized person: being washed from your sins, being born into the family of God, and having the Holy Spirit within you shining God’s light in your life. It changes you. It makes you different—not like some of the other kids you know who don’t live that way, right? Your baptism gives you the power to be different, to avoid doing bad things, and do good things instead, to know who your family is and where you belong, and to be a different kind of person in the world. Because if you’re a little different, then the world around you has to be a little bit different, too.
We’re going to do something else in a bit as well. We’re going to watch as someone is confirmed and someone else is received into this church. They were baptized many years ago, but they want to be part of THIS church, just like you will be part of THIS church. They are joining YOUR family—your spiritual family. You can think of them as uncles—except for Brendan because one of the people is his dad! They remind us that when you’re 13 or 14 you, too, can come to be confirmed, when you renew the promises that you will make in a few minutes, and commit yourself to living by them the rest of your life.
Why do we do this? Because your family is important. Your family at home is important, and your family at Church is important. It is in your family that you best come to know who Jesus is, how to love him and follow him, and finding that out is as good as having soap when you need a bath, having a family when you’re alone, and having a light to light the way through life.