This is an adapted form of the sermon I preached this morning, the day called The Holy Trinity. We also celebrated the Sacrament of Holy Baptism with two children this morning. I’ve changed their first names in this blog, but their middle name is the same. The readings this morning were Isaiah 6:1-8, Romans 8:12-17, and John 3:1-17.
Good morning, Verity. Good morning, Margaret. I’m so glad to see you both today! Today is a very special day for both of you. Today you are baptized. Today the waters of God’s grace will pour over you. Today the Holy Spirit will fill that water and call you to a life of hope and service. Today you will be marked with the cross of Christ forever. And today you will each receive a new name, the same name: Beloved Child of God.
And I think it’s kind of neat for you two to receive the same new name today, because you already share a name – you have the same middle name: Mae. Margaret Mae and Verity Mae. And who knows? You may end up being close friends as you grow older. You may end up in the same school, the same class. You may come back up here in about thirteen years or so to be confirmed together. Alright, I’ll stop. This may be getting annoying.
Names are important, though. Even middle names. They tell us things about us; and they tell us things about our parents, and about their hopes and dreams for us. As you grow older, ask your parents about your names – why did they choose them? Why Verity Mae? Why Margaret Mae? You may be surprised what you learn.
God’s name is important, too. Do you know what God’s middle name is? It’s not Mae. No, God’s middle name is “And.” Seriously! Well, God has many names. To the Jewish people, the name of God is Yahweh. To Muslims, the name they call God is Allah. And as Christians, the name we know for God is the name we celebrate today on Holy Trinity Sunday, the name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And right in the middle of that name is a little word that’s so very important, the word “and.”
That word “and” tells us so much about God. It tells us that there is always more to God than we think there is. Just when we think we have it figured out, we find out, yes, and… God is our Father in Heaven, yes, and God is also Jesus Christ, crucified for us, yes, and God is also the Holy Spirit who comes to us every day. The Holy Trinity teaches us this, that God is a “yes, and” kind of God.
It reminds me a little of the rules of comedy improv. Comedy improv is a special form of comedy in which a small group of comedians act out different sorts of scenes, but the trick is they are making it up as they go along. The first rule of improv is that you can’t ever say no. Instead, you say, “yes, and…” For instance, say one of the players says something like, “Well, here we are at the zoo, and the elephant just broke out of its cage!” If you respond, “No it didn’t,” then the joke dies and the scene is over. So instead you say, “Yes, and the peacocks are forming a conga line!” And then someone says, “Yes, and the monkeys just jumped on the zebras – it’s a rodeo!” That keeps the scene going, builds on it, makes it funnier.
Well, Margaret and Verity, we have a “Yes, and…” kind of God. And today you begin your life in relationship to our “yes, and” God. Today, you are baptized. Your baptism is a once-and-done thing – it’s good for life; you will never need to be baptized again. Yes, and your baptism is something you can come back to over and over again, remembering the promises God makes today for you.
In Baptism, God promises you everlasting life – one day, you will be with God in paradise forever! Yes, and baptism is also about this life – in baptism, God promises a full and abundant life before you die!
Today, God gives you a free gift, no strings attached. There’s nothing you can ever do to lose this gift. You don’t have to do anything. Yes, and God also today calls you to a life of service, a life in which you have an important role, a job to play to bring God’s kingdom into this world. There is so much for you to do!
That’s one of the wonderful things about living the baptized life, Verity and Margaret. You will be living a “yes, and” life. God promises to be with you always, even if one day you turn your back on God. Yes, and God also promises a rich, full life if you do faithfully live in your relationship with God, and fulfill the promises your parents make today on your behalf.
Living the baptized life won’t save you from suffering or pain, but it means that whatever suffering or pain you go through in life, you know that one day you will be released from it, and spend eternity in paradise with God. Yes, and God will also give you the strength and the resources you need to get through it now. Yes, and God will give you the opportunity to help others to get through their lives now. Yes, and God will do so very much more!
Living the baptized life means there is always more. Always more on the way from God. Always something new around the bend. Because that’s who God is. In the first reading today, we saw an image of God as a heavenly being seated on a high and lofty throne, surrounded by smoke and angels. That’s who God is: a high, distant force that evokes fear and trembling. Yes, and God is also the one who spoke to Nicodemus in the gospel reading, the very human Jesus who proclaimed that he came so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life. That’s who God is: the compassionate, loving Son who comes to save the whole world. Yes, and God is the Spirit that Paul talked about in our second reading – the Spirit who prays with us in sighs too deep for words, the Spirit who comforts and enlightens us, the Spirit who motivates and enlivens us.
Margaret and Verity, welcome to the baptized life. There is so much yet to come. It’s going to be amazing. Yes, and…