This is an adapted version of the sermon I preached this morning. The gospel was Luke 12:32-40. At this service, I officiated at the Holy Baptism of “Austin” (not his real name).
Good morning, Austin. I’m so glad you’re here today. Today is a very special day for you. Today, we proclaim God’s love for you. Today, you will be splashed with water, and through that water, God will proclaim God’s everlasting love for you. Today you receive a new name: “Child of God.” Today, you are baptized.
I have a question for you first, though, Austin. What are you afraid of? You say you’re afraid of the dark? That’s a pretty common fear, Austin. Better make sure he has a night-light. You say you’re scared of spiders? Again, pretty common. But did you know that spiders actually do a lot of good? But yes, I agree that they’re creepy. What’s that? You say you’re scared about the current political climate in our country, how it has gotten so difficult to communicate with one another? Wow, precocious kid. Again, lots of us are scared of that. And I don’t know the answer. What’s that? You’re scared that Main Street Market in town will be closing? Oh don’t worry about that one. It looks pretty likely that another market will be opening in the same location pretty quickly. You’ll get to shop there for many years to come.
So you’re scared of a lot of things, eh, Austin? Well, don’t worry. So are the rest of us. But Jesus told us we don’t have to be. In today’s gospel reading, Jesus said, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” We don’t have to be afraid of anything.
But he does tell us, Austin, to be ready for when he comes. Uh-oh. That sounds scary. Jesus is coming, so we’d better be good, or else we’re in trouble, right? Well, no! Jesus didn’t say, “Your Father wants to give you the kingdom, but only if you please him first.” He said, “It’s your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Austin, you know what that’s like better than most of us in this room, because that’s your experience as a baby! Your parents take care of you right now, no matter how you act. They will feed you and change you and put you to sleep and play with you, even if you’re naughty. Simply because they love you. Well, Austin, that’s the kind of love God has for us. Except even better. So when Jesus says, “Get ready,” it’s not so we can be prepared for the worst. No, it’s so that we can be prepared for the best! If we’re ready for Jesus, then when he arrives, we’ll be able to appreciate him even more. And what’s more, if we are ready for his coming now, then we might just glimpse Jesus around us and with us all the time even now, and we might just find the troubles in our lives get a little easier. And not as scary.
What’s that you say? You want to get ready, but you don’t know how? No problem! Jesus tells us how to do that right here in verses 33 and 34. “Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In order to be ready, we put our time and effort into getting treasure with God, not getting treasure on earth.
What, Austin? You want to know what “treasure” means? Boy, you are a curious child! Well, I think what Jesus is saying is that we shouldn’t focus our lives on money and things; in fact, he says, we should be very generous with them and hold onto them loosely! But we should hold tightly onto God. And there are a lot of good ways to do that.
Here are a few you can try, Austin:
- We’re giving you a Bible today. Read it. The stories in there tell us about God and about ourselves. They show us how much we all mess up over and over again, and they show us how God is always with us, no matter what we do wrong. They teach us about Jesus, who saved all of us so that we are free from sin and death.
- And come here to Prince of Peace and keep learning about God with others. Come to Sunday School. Come to Confirmation Class. Come to Bible studies. Keep coming, and keep learning as you grow older, because learning isn’t just for kids. In fact, our Christian Education Committee is changing its name to more clearly show that education is for everyone, no matter their age.
- And keep coming here to worship. At first, it won’t make much sense, and you’ll be making noise and distracting your parents. That’s okay. You’re not the only one who does that. And we don’t expect any different from a baby! After a few years, you’ll start to get the hang of it, and someday it will start making sense, the way God gathers us together each week, talks to us through the Holy Scripture, nourishes us through Holy Communion, and sends us out again into the world.
- Pray to God. Some of us are embarking on a special 40 day journey of prayer. Start your own journey of prayer, and come to God whenever you are grateful for something, and whenever you are in need of something, whenever you are happy or sad, excited or scared.
- Be kind to others. Right now, all that means for you is smile! Your smile brings joy to many people! As you get older, you’ll find other ways to bring joy and hope to others.
- Do these things, and you’ll be laying up treasures in heaven, which will never go bad.
And of course, how could I forget? The first thing you can do is come up here in just a few minutes, and receive a gift from God. Receive the gift of Holy Baptism. It all starts here. It all starts today. Get ready, Austin. Because this water will never stop pouring. This gift will never stop giving you the opportunity and the responsibility to follow Jesus for the rest of your life. This gift means that you will never have to be afraid of anything ever again.
Come, Austin. Come to the waters of Baptism.