Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Red Lollipops and Mountaintops

In both Middle and Upper School Chapel today, we celebrated the work and witness of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The celebration was delayed because our chapel day last week was January 20th, and instead of worshipping together we all watched the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. How fitting it was, so many people the world over observed, that we were able to wake the day after the dreamer's holiday and discover the dream had come true...

Exodus 3:7-10; Psalm 16:1, 5-11; Luke 6:27-36
When I was in high school I joined the Poetry Club. I liked writing and even though I was pretty shy, I thought it would be fun to talk with other folks about the poems we all wrote, and to learn to read poetry aloud, which is much different than reading a paragraph. So I went after school to my English teacher, Mr. Pell’s classroom, where the desks were arranged in a circle and some of the other club members were already sitting there. We pulled out our poems and one by one started to read them out loud.

I was amazed at what I heard. All kinds of images and symbols and words we all only barely knew. The poems were deep and rich and filled with meaning. After each reading, we talked at length about we had heard and where the poems had taken us.
Then came my turn. I flipped my notebook open to the page I had decided to share and began reading my poem. When I was done, there was an awful silence. No one said anything until finally one person spoke up. “Your writing,” he said, “is so simple, kind of like a big red lollipop.”

I was devastated. Right away I thought of how the rest of the poems had been like gooey, chewy chocolate bars with complicated layers of caramel and nougat and cookies and crisps. Red lollipops were for kids. I wanted my writing to be as deep and rich as everyone else’s, the kind of poems that you have to work at enjoying to their fullest, like a chocolate bar whose textures and flavors linger in your mouth and you have to tease them out with your tongue. A red lollipop, though? There’s not much there…

As I got ready for today’s chapel services, and especially for this sermon, I felt like I was right back in Mr. Pell’s classroom again. Since we’ve been back from our winter break, we’ve heard from the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal church, a prominent former governor of Mississippi, and the President of the United States, men and women who have blazed trails through history 
and accomplished extraordinary things. And now comes…my turn…lollipops, anyone?

Today, because we did not have chapel last week, we are honoring the life and work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose words, both poetic and prophetic, have now inspired generations of Americans to make true the declaration our founding father wrote so long ago, We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all are created equal…

Martin Luther King’s speeches are full of stunning images drawn from the headlines of his day, headlines highlighting the horrible injustices that many have suffered simply because of the color of their skin. His speeches are full of pictures painted with sweeping strokes of words about dreams and marches and mountaintops. His words sing of harmony and freedom, repeating the refrains of people who longed to be free at last. And through it all he weaves threads from the holy scriptures of his faith, including the scriptures we heard today with their great golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do to you.

And yet, despite the exceptional quality of Martin Luther King’s speeches, despite the many honors and awards he received, including the Nobel Peace prize, despite the crowds who gathered to hear this poet-prophet speak of love and justice and what he called a kind of dangerous unselfishness… Despite the wonder of his words, there was nothing at all complicated or layered or mysterious about his message, a message so simple and eternal that we’ve heard it echoed already this year in the words of Bishop Jefferts Schori, who called upon us to arise and shine the light of God’s love in the lives of all who live in darkness and fear. We heard King’s message echoed in the words of Governor Winter, who challenged us to take our place in history by standing up for freedom and justice for all. And we heard King’s message echoed in the words of President Obama, who urged us to remember that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness, that we are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and that we are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this earth.

And so it is that despite the richness and depth of history, despite life’s layers of meaning like the layers of a fine chocolate bar, there is nothing at all complicated about how we are called to live – it’s a red lollipop life. I’ve learned that doesn’t mean it is childish, or that there is nothing to it, but rather that like a red lollipop we are called to a life that is simple and straightforward and sincere. Martin Luther King wrote, Everybody can be great... because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve (although it will make your English teachers happy if you do). You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle…you don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity…You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.

On the night before President Obama’s inauguration, poet Suzan-Lori Parks read her own words on National Public Radio, and if ever there was a red lollipop poem, this is it. Simple. Straightforward. Sincere…

U being U
Mr. President Elect
Makes me want to get MY stuff

I feel like starting with something RADICAL
Love my Neighbor
Like share what I’ve got
Like think for myself
Like ask the hard questions
Like lean toward the good and help keep the peace

You being you, Mr. President-Elect
Makes me want to look on others with respect
Makes me wanna
Practice Radical Inclusion, you know,
Open my heart wide, especially in the presence of folks who
Are not like me, you know,
Work to see my Brother
In the Other
You make me want to entertain all my far-out ideas
Make me wanna represent the race, as in the human race,
And know that, like You, I too am Prized…

I feel like picking up the trash in the park or on the beach
I think I’ll teach, and learn, from all I meet
I think I’ll apologize in person for all our faults
And try to make amends for our shortcomings…

Because I believe
In the dream
And I am ready
To wake up
And live it.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Third Sunday after Epiphany B

Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 62:6-14; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20

If I were standing at the beginning of time, said the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King on the day before he was assassinated, If I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of taking a kind of general and panoramic view of the whole of human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, “Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?”, I would take my mental flight by Egypt and I would watch God’s children in their magnificent trek from the dark dungeons of Egypt...across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on to the promised land.  And in spite of its significance, I wouldn’t stop there.

I would move on by Greece and take my mind to Mount Olympus.  And I would see Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Euripedes and Aristophanes assembled around the they discussed the great and eternal issues of reality.  But I wouldn’t stop there.

Nor would he stop, King said, in the heydey of the Roman Empire or in the age of the Renaissance or at the dawn of the Protestant Reformation.  He wouldn’t stop to watch Abraham Lincoln sign the Emancipation Proclamation.  He wouldn’t stop to hear Roosevelt declare that we have nothing to fear but fear itself.

Strangely enough, he said, Strangely enough, I would turn to the Almighty and say, “If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the 20th century, I will be happy.”  He chose his present age, and in those few years in the second half of the 20th century, of course, Martin Luther King would become a modern-day prophet with as passionate a proclamation of justice as any Old Testament prophet.  

Any prophet, that is, except for Jonah.  In the biblical book that tells his story, Jonah speaks only eight words of prophesy - the rest of the book is about his wishing he were anything other than God’s spokesperson.  Go to the great city of  Ninevah and preach against it, God calls to Jonah at the start of this fish tale.  In the very next verse, Jonah runs away from God and boards a ship going in the exact opposite direction.  Certain that a storm at sea is his fault for fleeing, he goes overboard to save the rest of the sailors.  And there in the water, once the wind and waves subside, Jonah is found by that fish who swallows him whole.


From inside the fish, Jonah prayed to God, we are told.  Artists have rendered the dark, damp belly with Jonah huddled amidst bones and muck, but the words of his prayer paint a different picture.  To the roots of the mountain I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever.  But you brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God...What I have vowed I will make good.

We meet Jonah this morning shaking off bones and muck after the fish has deposited him on the shore.  Get up, God calls to him.  Get up, go to Ninevah, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I will tell you.  This time Jonah goes, but not, I suspect, without heaving a sigh.  Israel and Ninevah were enemy states, and Jonah would love nothing more than to see fire and brimstone rain down from heaven upon that great city.  And he would love nothing less than to be the one whose proclamation prompts their repentance.  That’s exactly what happens, and in the verses just following where today’s story leaves us, Jonah cries out, I knew it!  I knew it!  I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love.  I knew you would forgive them.  You may as well take away my life, God, for I would rather die than see this day.  If the Almighty had asked him then which age he would like to live in, Jonah would surely have wished for any age other than the present in which he worried and stewed as much as anyone who has heard God call.

Anyone, that is, except for Andrew, Simon, James, and John.  It takes Jonah three chapters to accept God’s invitation to deliver a message; it takes the four fishermen one verse to accept Jesus’ call to proclaim good news.  Immediately, Mark tells us, Immediately they left their nets, their family, their lives and followed him.  Mark doesn’t tell us whether they had already heard Jesus speak or seen him perform miracles.  He doesn’t tell us if the fishing business was enough for them to make a living, or whether their families loved them, or whether wanderlust had been growing in their bones.  Immediately they followed him is all we know.

I don’t know about you, but if I’m honest, I’m far more like the man in the fish than I am like the fisherman.  When faced with decisions, especially the life-changing kind, there’s a chance I’ll run the other way, and there’s often a storm of doubt.  Sometimes I am swallowed by the process of choosing which way to go, and sometimes I go intentionally deep down into that belly where there is nothing else to do but pray until I am ready to return to shore.  

This season of epiphanies is not a season for idly gazing at the stars, for basking in the light of the Light of the World.  For that light illumines the kingdom of God in our midst, and Christ calls us immediately to serve with him in it.  Follow me.  I will make you fish for people.  I will show you how to bring them in, into the kingdom, into a new way of living with justice and love.  The time is fulfilled, Jesus said then, and he has said in every generation since, and he still says to us now.  The time is fulfilled.

The Book of Jonah and the Gospel of Mark seem to offer such dramatically different examples of what to do when God calls, what to do when God invites us to live and proclaim the good news.  Jonah runs away; Andrew and the others jump right in.  Jonah witnesses and is horrified by God’s graciousness and compassion prevailing over judgement and condemnation; the disciples will witness, horrifically, Jesus’ graciousness and compassion resulting in his judgement and condemnation.  But the two stories end in a similar and striking way.  God’s steadfast love has prevailed in the sparing of Ninevah and in the Resurrection, but those who have, whether reluctantly or eagerly, followed God through the dark belly and up onto the bright shore are all silent in the end.  The last verse of the Book of Jonah is a question, as God asks Jonah whether the people and animals of Ninevah warranted compassion.  The last verse of the Gospel of Mark ends, in the Greek, in the middle of a sentence as the women run from the empty tomb in fear.

In the silence of those endings, I believe, God turns to us and invites us to make the next move, to make a new beginning, to take up the mantle of the prophet, to answer the call to discipleship, to proclaim what we know about God’s graciousness and compassion, to live in the kingdom of God.  Jonah’s story teaches us that God’s patience can far outlast our fear and doubt, that God can imagine success where we see failure, and that God’s desire for us goes deeper than the darkness in the pits of our stomachs.  

When we struggle to discern the way that God would have us go, when our own agendas for our lives are turned upside-down by God’s agenda for us, when we find ourselves in the belly of the whale, one preacher writes, it is then that we must learn to let the Spirit carry us to the new place where we can hear again God calling us.  When our epiphanies come, let us turn our lives in the same direction as the life of the one who calls us to graciousness and compassion and a proclamation of justice.  Perhaps we will be asked to jump ship, to leave behind all that is familiar; more often, I think, God asks us to do the same things we have always done, but to do them in a new way, for new reasons, with new hope, happy that the Almighty has placed us in this present age when the time is fulfilled, when the kingdom of God is at hand.  In the words of Martin Luther King, Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter - but beautiful - struggle for a new world.  This is the calling of the children of God, and our brothers and sisters wait eagerly for our response.  Amen.

Artwork: "Jonah in the Whale", by Frank Wesley; "Calling Disciples", by He Qi


Whereas I have read two entire books since the beginning of the new year, which is two more than the number of entire books I read last year, and

Whereas I have completed one knitting project and have two more on the needles (the log cabin blanket and a pink baby blanket begun because I was organizing my stash and found this yarn and just had to see what it would look like knitted up), and

Whereas I have mostly eaten soup and salads, and have only eaten ice cream once, and

Whereas I have written at least one blog entry each week, therefore

Be it resolved that I continue keeping my new year's resolutions for another month, which has to be some sort of record. 

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Leftover Surprise

No, it's not a mysterious combination of things from the freezer, and it isn't served the day after Christmas.  I'm talking about leftover yarn, and a surprise for an eight-year old.

When my brother and I were little, mom would sometimes wrap a handful of small toys (the happy meal kind) in layers of tissue paper - a surprise ball.  We'd tear through layer after layer and every now and then a little toy would be revealed until we got the the toy at the center.  Fun!

Well, she's at it again - this time with yarn.  If you, like me, and apparently like mom, have a hard time throwing out those leftover balls of yarn too small to realistically do anything with (but it's YARN - how can we throw away YARN?!?!) then here's the recipe for Leftover Surprise.
Tie the end of the first tiny leftover ball to the arm of a very small toy.  Wrap the yarn around and around, and when it runs out tie another leftover ball on.  Every now and then, hold a little page of stickers or a penny or another small toy on the ball while you continue to wrap the yarn around.  When you have run out of prizes, or yarn, or patience, attach a tag to the end and write "To Charlie, Love Nana".  That's what mom wrote, but of course you might write something different.

Serves one.  But entertains several.  When it's all unwound, the toys and trinkets are treasured, and the leftover yarn apparently becomes some kind of alien for Star Wars figures to defeat.  The fun never ends!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

At twilight...

...nature is not without loveliness, though perhaps its chief use is to illustrate quotations from the poets. Oscar Wilde

Isn't it so? There's something not at all dim or obscure about the light just after the sun has set or just before it has risen. The light promises something: the spangling of stars or the dawn of a new day. Fireflies love twilight. So does the stillness that precedes treefrogs and bullfrogs and crickets.

When I think of twilight, I think of summer evenings. When most other folks these days think of twilight these days, they think of books you can't put down, movies you see over and over, and gorgeous young vampires. I haven't read the book or seen the movie (am I the last one?!), but as I googled the phenomenon one day, in an effort to stay on top of what students think is cool, I came across a still from the movie in which Bella is wearing a pair of cabled mittens.

In this land of summer evenings, there are only a handful of days that call for mittens. But a pair of fingerless mitts are perfect for warming up just a little. I found a few patterns on Ravelry that tried to recreate Bella's mittens, mixed them together, added a few touches of my own, and cut off the tips to make my own design - the first time I've been original-ish with a non-rectangular knitting pattern! Here it is:

Yarn: Lion Brand Wool-Ease
Needles: Four dpns, size 7

Cable forward six (cf6): Slip 3 sts to cable needle and bring it foward, k3, k3 from cable needle
Cable backward six (cb6): Slip 3 sts to cable needle and bring it backward, k3, k3 from cable needle

CO 50 stitches and divide between three needles (14, 18, 18). Join, being careful not to twist.
Rows 1-6: k12, p2, (k4, p2) six times
Row 7: cf6, cb6, p2, (k4, p2) six times
Repeat rows 1-7 six more times or to desired placement of afterthought thumb.  

Left hand afterthought thumb: work round as usual until third needle, then k4,p1.  With contrasting yarn, k6.  Slip stitches back on needle and knit them; then p1, k4, p2.

Right hand afterthought thumb: work round as usual until second needle, then k4, p1.  With contrasting yarn, k6.  Slip stitches back on needle and knit them; then p1, k4, p2 to end of needle and complete round as usual.

Repeat rows 1-7 to desired length and bind off. Complete afterthought thumb.

I'm a sermon writer, not a pattern writer. True to my sermon writing process, I suspect I'll be updating and editing this post regularly until I get the pattern just the way I want it to sound...

The evidence is only circumstantial, but here, I think, is the model for the color of yarn I used to make my mittens. The model is equally soft and warm, but harder to wrap around your fingers. In fact, he has me wrapped around his. His name is Zachary Gray, after a Madeleine L'Engle character whose personality he has taken on...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

First Sunday after Epiphany B

Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 89:20-29; Acts 10:34-38; Mark 1:7-11

Every year on the first Sunday following Epiphany, the church celebrates the feast of the baptism of Jesus.  We know the story so well, perhaps because we’ve heard it told so very many times, perhaps because we enter the story every time we come together with a community of faith to baptize.  In baptism, our stories mingle with the biblical story we know, a story the gospels all tell a little differently.  When we put them together, we get something like this...John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness dressed in camel skins and smelling like locusts and honey, preaching about repentance, and baptizing people in the Jordan River.  One day, Jesus came to be baptized, and at first John hesitated, claiming that Jesus ought to be baptizing him.  But Jesus insisted, so John took him into the river, as he had done for so many others, and baptized him.  Then the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus like a dove, and a voice from heaven announced, This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well-pleased.  

This morning we heard Mark’s version of the story, and in this story, only Jesus sees the dove.  Only Jesus hears the voice of God, who says very personally, very intimately, You are my Son, my beloved, with you I am well-pleased.  To the crowd, even to John, Jesus’ baptism looked just like all the others who came that day.  He looked the same as everyone else going into the water, dusty and determined, and he looked the same as the coming out, wet.  The crowd would come to know Jesus as God’s beloved Son in the world only by watching him, by listening to him, by following him, by letting him engage their lives.

The same is true of our stories, of our baptisms, right?  We look basically like everyone else when come to the font, whether we come as babies or adults, and we look basically like everyone else when we lift our heads dripping up from the water.  I suspect most of us don’t see doves or hear voices from heaven.  Our foreheads are marked with the sign of a cross, marked as Christ’s own forever, but even that mark remains invisible.  So, others come to know us as God’s beloved people in the world only by watching us, by listening to us, by letting us engage their lives.  

The gospel of Mark has no Christmas story, no shepherds, no angels; it has no epiphany story, no wise men, no star.  Instead, Jesus’ baptism is the moment of incarnation, of the revelation of God-with-us, of the naming of Jesus.  At his baptism, Jesus learns his identity, his name: You are my Son, God says, my Beloved.

At our baptisms, we, too, learn our identity, our names.  We learn who we are.  We may not see a dove or hear a voice from heaven, but the Holy Spirit moves around us when we make and whenever we renew our baptismal vows, and God says to each of us that we, too, are children, we are beloved, and with us God is well-pleased.  We might not hear it with our ears, but we can hear it here where a cross marks our foreheads, or perhaps here, where God dwells in our hearts.  We are beloved...

In Mark’s gospel, Jesus’ public ministry begins at his baptism.  Mark spares only two verses for those forty days in the devilish desert and then sends Jesus on to Galilee, where, Mark writes, Jesus started proclaiming the good news of God.  Our public ministry, likewise, begins at our baptisms.  Whatever age we are when we come out of that water, whatever gifts we think we have or don’t have, we are made there part of the Body of Christ, we are filled with the Holy Spirit, and we are called to be God’s people in the world.  We are called to proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ.  We are called to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves.  We are called to strive for justice and peace, to respect the dignity of every human being, to support one another in our lives in Christ, and to share in Christ’s eternal priesthood.

Maybe because we don’t see doves, maybe because we don’t hear voices from heaven, maybe because we can’t see the crosses that mark us as Christ’s own forever, we seem to easily forget who we are.  Sometimes we ignore who we are, but more often I really think we just forget.  We get wrapped up in our day-to-day lives, the good and the bad and everything in between, and we forget that we are people who have been given new lives.  When we forget, being God’s person in the world is reduced to something on our to-do list: go to school, do the laundry, pay the bills, fix the sink, say a prayer, feed the dog, rake the pine straw, cook dinner, take the kids to soccer, go to church, check the mail... Our day-to-day lives wring the water right out of us and we end up all dried out.  We forget who we are.  Or we know, but think we can’t be both who God says we are and who the world says we need to be.

So we come back to the font.  Barbara Sholis writes, “The touch of water upon our lives helps us recall our place in the biblical story, and reminds us that God’s creative force is still birthing us, claiming us, renewing us.”  Every now and again, when we have the good fortune to be present at a baptism, we get a little wet all over again.  If we pause just enough to remember how our story mingles in that water with Christ’s death and resurrection, how the water seeps into our skin, and with it, the Holy Spirit like a dove, then the words of God soak our souls, remember, you are my are my person in the are my beloved...

Perhaps we can also remember that our baptismal covenant is not a to-do list, but rather a sub-text for all the other things on our to-do list.  A sub-text for our day-to-day lives.  It was Martin Luther who called attention to the difference between one’s office and one’s vocation.  One’s office, Luther explained, is the thing one does for a living.  It uses the particular set of gifts and interests and abilities and resources that any one person has.  Our offices differ, and all are part of the ongoing life of the world.  My office is priest and chaplain.  My son’s office is 2nd grader.  

Our vocation, though, is the same - it’s the same for all of us.  Our vocation uses this very particular gift, this mark we share.  The Reverend Barbara Brown Taylor writes that our vocation, our baptismal call to ministry, “involves being who you already are and doing what you already do, but with one difference: namely, that you understand yourself to be God’s person in and for the world.”

There is much to see and hear as we go about being the Body of Christ, the household of God, Christ’s own forever.  The mark that we cannot see is made visible as we engage the world with compassion, with wonder, with faith in the one who saw a dove and heard a voice from heaven.  There is much to see and hear today and every day as we live into who we are, who we have been named, who we are called to be.  We are daughters and sons of God, God’s beloved, and with us, in our dry-spells and when we are drenched, with us God is well-pleased.  Amen.

Artwork: "Baptism of Christ", by Macha Chmakoff

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Sadie's Baptism

We tell brides that rain on their wedding day means good luck; we tell parents that when children cry at their baptism it's just the devil getting out of them.  Little Miss Sadie didn't have an ounce of devil in her this morning - not only did she not cry at all, but she actually smiled throughout most of the service.  Sadie is only nine months old, but her smile is well-practiced and makes you feel as though she believes you are the most wonderful thing she has ever seen.  I offered her a wee bit of bread at communion, and she took it along with my fingers into her mouth, so eager was she for that meal.  Her big brother, himself four, by contrast took one bite of his communion wafer and handed the rest to his mother.  After taking a sip of wine, he dashed out the back doors of the church where I understand he spit the wine out in the bathroom sink!  Later, though, when the family gathered for pictures in the chapel, it was clear that Sadie and her brother are related as their pair of smiles brightened the entire space. 

Genesis 28:10-22; Psalm 136:1-9; Hebrews 11:13-22; John 10:7-17

I shared with David and Cathy yesterday a line from one of my favorite poems, William Wordsworth’s Intimations of Immortality, in which Wordsworth muses on a special kind of sight the soul posseses when we are young.  He writes:

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:

The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,

Hath elsewhere had its setting,

And cometh from afar;

Not in entire forgetfulness, 

And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come

From God, who is our home:

Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

Trailing clouds of glory do we come... I love that image of glory swirling and dancing about children when they are very young.  I know you all must see it circling Sadie, in the brightness of her smile, in the the sparkle of her eyes.  We’ve all wondered, watching children, what they are able to see that perhaps we no longer can - swirling glory, angels in waiting, the face of God?

Wordsworth wonders if the clouds fade as we grow older, or if we simply forget how to see through them even as we learn to see in other ways, more measured, more solid, more linear.  All that swirling and sparkling would be dizzying in a grown-up world that marches forward day by day with responsibilities and obligations and deadlines to meet.  Heaven may lie about us in our infancy, illuminating everything, but as we grow the world teaches us to see by sunlight and lamplight alone.   

This morning's readings come to us trailing clouds of glory that have not yet settled, glory that still swirls around us today as the presence of God in our individual and common lives, glory that just might help us see things we have forgotten how to see – that our home was and is and always will be with God, who in this season of incarnation, in this season of Christmas, has made for heaven a home on earth in the sparkling eyes of an infant lying in a manger.

It had surely been ages since Jacob had seen anything but his own ambition and anxiety.  He had tricked his father and his brother in order to get what he thought was glory, and then took off across the desert and finally dropped to the ground, exhausted.  Jacob dreamed out there, with a rock for a pillow and stars for a blanket.  In his dream he saw a ladder that reached from earth to heaven, and on it angels moved up and down.  God was in the dream, not at the top of the ladder but on the ground, right beside Jacob, and God said, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go.  I will not leave you.

Scripture doesn’t tell us whether it was still dark when Jacob awoke, whether the moon shone upon the desert sand or whether the sun had begun to rise.  Don’t you think, though, that clouds of glory swirled around him as the dream faded but the memory of it remained.  He did not forget what he had just seen.  Surely God was in this place and I did not know it, Jacob declared.  How awesome is this place! he said.  This is the household of God.  This is the gate of heaven.

Perhaps some of us have dreamed or will one day dream as Jacob did.  But I believe that all of us, every once in a while, have the opportunity to arrive in a place and discover there something we had long forgotten how to see.  David and Cathy and all of us who are parents or godparents or grandparents or cousins or big brothers have looked into Sadie’s eyes - into the eyes of any child, right? - and seen a glimpse of heaven.

In this gathered community of faith, and in our own communities of faith where we live, we have joined in prayer and thanksgiving and seen a glimpse of heaven on earth, for there indeed we are in the household of God.

In our prayer and thanksgiving here today, in our celebration of holy Baptism and holy Eucharist, in water and oil and bread and wine, we see in these outward and visible signs the inward and spiritual grace and glory that still swirl around us even when we do not know it.  How awesome is this place.  How awesome is this moment.

Sadie, God is with you and will keep you wherever you go.  God will not leave you.  We and all who will have the good fortune to be part of your community of faith will, with God’s help, be witnesses of the work of God on earth even as you are a witness to us of heaven, which is our home.  May glory swirl about us all this morning, as water swirling in this font, and may it drip over our foreheads and down our necks and soak our souls in grace.  Amen.

Photo: Anonymous on someone's Webshots site, from an album of pictures taken in Asia