You know, it's like they say: reduce, reuse, and remember your baptism, right?
Remember Your Baptism
Today, I noticed that my two-year-old daughter seems to be rejoicing, and, judging by her sheer delight in the tiniest of activities and sights, that her heart perhaps finds wonderful comfort. To be honest, to watch her running around, today is not much different than most other days. She seems to do a lot of rejoicing. One thing to know about Geneva, too, is that specific anniversaries are not her forte. She’ll sing “Happy Birthday,” as heartily on any random day to almost anyone at lunch as she would on someone’s actual birthday. So, I don’t think her zeal is a result of her remembering that today is the anniversary of her baptism.
But, I think the extra little zip in my step this morning, despite a late night, is. I know that at dinner tonight, we’ll invite Uncle Mark over, and we’ll light Geneva’s baptismal candle. We’ll pray—certainly her favorite, “Come Lord Jesus be our Guest…,” which we are learning to say in German, “Come Herr Jesus sei unser Gast, und segne, was du uns bescheret hast.” She will shout “Amen,” and clap her hands a bit, as she always concludes a prayer. Along with our daily bread, we’ll also thank God for one another, for the gift of family right across the street, for neighbors and friends, for fulfilling work and supportive colleagues, for faith communities, and for belonging.
And as we sit and chat we’ll remember Geneva’s baptism. We’ll talk and laugh and reminisce about our trip to Germany in November 2009, with the ten-week-old Geneva. We stayed in Berlin a bit, visited the museums and the Christmas Markets, walked throughout the beautiful capital city, and enjoyed long breakfasts. We went down to Erfurt for a couple of days. We visited our close friends the Utpatels and learned how four little boys make Christmas cookies and how their mom makes the house feel like the perfect intersection of Europe, the North Pole and Anthropologie. And, we spent a day in Eisleben, where Geneva was baptized by our friend Rev. Scott Moore, who was serving the St. Peter and St. Paul Church.
In this very church Martin Luther was baptized. Get this—the original font survives (with repairs). That is, on November 29, 2009, Geneva was baptized in the very font in which Martin Luther was baptized on November 11, 1483. Those in the congregation who had them, brought their own baptismal candles and lit them for the service (something it might be fun to see here), and Geneva received a candle from the congregation and one from a German friend on the occasion. She giggled and smiled, while Scott mixed hot water from the kettle in the sacristy with the water already in the font (which had been amply chilled by the November air filling a medieval nave) in order to reach a “room temperature” that would not shock the baby. As he swirled the waters, he reminded us of God’s presence through the ages and also in that place, of God’s promises, and of the community of saints including Geneva that knows no limits of time or national borders. And that’s what we want Geneva to know when we tell her about her baptism—she is part of something Big. God’s love and the community of saints.
Martin Luther said, “Remember your baptism,” and while I only remember mine in faith and theory and times of trouble, my wife and my brother and I, along with some friends in Germany, remember Geneva’s baptism quite well. And we’ll remind her of it, tell her the stories, and show her the pictures every 29 November for as long as we can—even after her candle, a very large pedestal one—has burned its last. And I hope that in celebrating and marking this anniversary each year, she will be reminded of this sacrament of belonging, and she’ll simply know, as sure as she’ll know there is gravity, that she is claimed, marked and sealed. She’ll know that despite the ups and downs of her feelings, the strength and weakness of her convictions, or the good and bad of her behavior, she belongs to the one from whom and from whose love nothing can separate her. And somehow—initiated in Eisleben in the chancel of a fifteenth-century church, continued this evening around our favorite yard-sale-purchased dining room table, and hopefully for years to come (even without her mom and dad) in a college dorm, a first apartment, a home of her own one day, or maybe, who knows, on a mountain in Tibet or in outer space—this little candle ceremony will be something to remind her that this is a special day, and that she is part of something Big. Life, one might say, is a journey of faith, from loneliness to having a home; and Baptism is a sacrament of belonging.
Join us at the Luther500 Festival in 2013. Remember your baptism. Let your faith be revitalized as you walk where Luther walked, and as you learn, serve and celebrate with friends. Take the day trip to Eisleben and visit the birthplace of Martin Luther, the church where he was baptized, and the pulpit where he preached his final sermon. While you are there, you’ll also have the chance to serve the Eisleben community with a special project that will leave a sign of God’s love in action and remind you that you are part of something Big.