Help us, O God, to hear your word with attention and understanding; and so write its message on our hearts that its power may be manifest in our lives, for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Today is a good day for a baptism. Any day really is a good day for a baptism but today the church celebrates the feast of All Saints’s Day which is an especially good day for a baptism. For today we remember that the church on earth and the saints in heaven have been knit together in one communion and fellowship. And every time someone confesses faith in the risen Christ and is baptized that communion and fellowship grows. Today God will make saints out of Lincoln and Sofia and we along with all of the angels and saints in heaven will rejoice.
Just what is a saint though? We might think of a saint as someone who is especially good. Some people are very good and they are clearly saints while other people are rather bad and they are clearly not.
That all sounds fairly straightforward and it makes sense to us. But then Jesus comes and in a way turns all of that upside down, doesn’t he? I mean, you heard that reading from Saint Luke so you know I’m not making this up. What does Jesus say? Blessed are you who are poor, blessed are the hungry, blessed are you who weep, blessed are you when people hate, exclude, revile, and defame you. And on the other hand, are you rich, well fed, enjoying yourself, spoken well of by others? Woe to you, says Jesus!
*clears throat* “That’s no way to speak in front of visitors, Jesus. Don’t you know we’re out here trying to invite people to follow you?” There are a number of things we could say here but let me just say this: whatever else “saintliness” is it most certainly is not a property that belongs to us. Consider these stained glass windows. The light streaming through them setting them ablaze with colour and beauty is not a property that belongs to the glass itself but to the sun. In a similar way the holiness of saints is not a property that belongs to human beings but to God and it is his to give. God makes saints. And he does so whenever he pours his love and power into ordinary men and women and children making them to come alive and shine in a new way.
Brendan and Sarah, Chris and Allison, you have chosen to present Lincoln and Sofia for baptism today. But behind and beyond your choice to do so lies another choosing, God’s own. Today God is choosing Lincoln and Sofia. In fact, he chose them long before today. As Saint Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians, “[God] chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love,” (1:4). Come to think of it that gives us another helpful perspective on what a saint is. A saint is someone who is “in Christ” and called to live a holy life in love.
So perhaps the first question is how does someone get in Christ? The short answer is baptism itself. We are “baptized into Christ,” says Saint Paul elsewhere (Rom 6:3). In a few moments when Lincoln and Sofia are brought to the font God is going to take them and unite them to his Son our Lord Jesus Christ. In an instant they will be liberated and set free from the power of sin and death and transferred into the kingdom of God. Today their citizenship will change because of who Jesus is and what Jesus has done and they will begin a new life with him. And the same is true for every single person here this morning that has been baptized. You have been purchased by God. You are his.
And this comes with certain benefits. “In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance,” says Saint Paul. What’s included? Well, I’m glad you asked. For one thing the salvation of our souls and bodies. For another, the forgiveness of sin and the gift of God the Holy Spirit living within us. Let me put it another way. When you turn to Jesus Christ in faith and are baptized God pours his love and power into your heart (Rom 5:5). Now the power of Almighty God is at work in you.
How great is God’s power that is at work in those who believe? Immeasurably great says Paul. You cannot measure it. But get this, it is the very same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead and seated him on the heavenly throne from which he presently rules over everything. That power is the power that has been poured into every person who believes and is baptized.
Today God is going to pour this power into Lincoln and Sofia and make them saints. But we will have to raise them. Parents. Godparents. Church. This is what you are signing up for today. To take the saints that only God can make and raise them. To teach them how to live holy lives as we ourselves live holy lives. I cannot possibly stress this enough but let me try. Your primary task now above everything else is to pass the faith on to these children. Because if we give our children everything but not Christ then they have nothing. But if we give them Christ then even if they have nothing they have everything.
And so today is the beginning of what I pray is a long and fruitful journey for Lincoln and Sofia. They with us will begin to follow Jesus and learn what it means to love him and let his love and power work in them and through them. And we will do everything we can to teach them. We must.
To be sure this is a huge task and to be honest, on our own we can no more raise saints than we can become them ourselves. But by God’s grace and by God’s help we can and we will. Moreover, Saint Paul, Saint John, and all of the saints are praying for us every step of the way. We don’t have to rely on our own strength, wisdom, or power because God has given us his strength, wisdom, and power. We don’t have to rely on our own prayers because all of the saints in heaven are praying for us and for Lincoln and Sofia especially now. Because today, once again, God is acting, and choosing, and making. And we with all of the saints in heaven are rejoicing.