(RCL C) Isaiah 43: 1-7
Baptism of Slade Marco McNaughton
I have called you by name: you are mine.
A word of God through the prophet Isaiah, spoken first to the people of Israel at the end of their long passage of exile and in the first hours of their healing and recovery and restoration. I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine.
Following the complete and catastrophic disaster to the people and to the nation. The walls of David’s ancient city torn down, the Temple and royal palace looted of their sacred and magnificent treasures. Death and destruction. Every last source of national identity and pride ruined forever in this great humiliation. And after decades of isolation, despair, in the far-off refugee camps of the diaspora.
The refreshing word, fresh for us in our imaginations, even as it echoes down the corridors of time, 2,500 hundred years ago--as we heard it first in the opening words of Isaiah 40, Comfort ye, comfort ye my people.
Healing and recovery and restoration. Fresh for us. Feeling it not just a bit of ancient history, but in our hearts. That somehow the pages of the past tell what is profoundly our story. Where there had been no hope, now the highway has been opened, the hills leveled, the rough places made smooth, and there can be homecoming, and a new beginning. I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine.
Good and gentle and life-giving words. Words of refreshment and renewal and promise. Not abandoned, not left to disappear with the dust of the ages, but given a new heart and a new way of life, from this day forward and forevermore. “I created you; I gave you your name; and I will never let you go.”
Something of the same we perhaps hear as Jesus hears them in the words from the Father in the great story in Luke of the Baptism of Jesus at the River Jordan. “You are my son. My beloved.” The sense of never-failing love and care. I am yours and you are mine. Long ago and far away. Yet our story too.
And as we come now into the second full week of this New Year 2010, and as we hear the words of promise spoken in the deep baptismal waters for young Slade McNaughton this morning, we would take this word and appropriate it for ourselves, each one of us. To hear it whispered in our ears, for us alone: I created you; I have blessed you, redeemed you, forgiven you; I have given you your name; and I will never let you go.”
What a great New Year’s message and promise that is. Spoken by God to Israel in ancient days. By the Father to the Son. And by the Son spoken from the Cross to each and every one of us, as we have passed through these waters of baptism as well, to enter new life, to say again and again, that he might dwell in us, and we in him. To speak of the intimacy and completeness of his love and care for us. In this life and in the age to come. Our story too. A word we would hear and know and show forth not only with our lips, but in our lives.
The newspaper columnists at the end of December and the beginning of January, some of them, tried some predictions about what might be in store for us all in 2010. Informed and not-so-well-informed guesses about the state of the economy, the environment, the city we live in, the world around us. And of course none of us can know even one day to the next. That is the reality. My prediction: that there will be high moments and low moments. Some things will get better, some will get worse. It will be different for different people. There will be surprises, good and bad, for all of us.
But what we can say this morning is that the word spoken in our baptism is a word that will be sustained and will be true for us no matter what the weather, what the economy, what the state of our wide world. For Slade. For us all. As it was, as it is for us now in Christ, and ever shall be, world without end. And may this blessing be rich and perfect for you in this New Year as we all of us with Slade splash in the waters of New Life. I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.
Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God.