April 15, 2017
Jovanni Torres, Francisco Rivas Manuel! Listen up! Before we baptize you and formally welcome you into our tribe, there are a few things you need to hear, a few things of which we all need to be reminded.
First, about God. God is available to you 24/7/365. That’s really what Easter and the resurrection are all about. God is alive. When you feel lost and confused . . . When you don’t know what to do or where to turn . . . Ask yourself this: who are the people in my life who are authentic, available, and affirming. God is present to you in those people. They are living the resurrection!
But even when no one is around, and you feel totally alone, and even the words of the Bible do not connect for you, here’s what you do: go quiet, really quiet, go inside yourself, become really, really calm . . . for because of the resurrection, because God conquered death itself . . . God is as close as the breath you breathe.
Second, also about God. God is totally awesome. And I mean that literally, not like pop-culture awesome. “That pizza I had last night was really awesome!” No. Not the same. While God is as close as the breath you breathe, God is also un-understandable. That kind of awesome! You cannot shape God into your image and likeness. If ever you think you have God figured out, remember these lines from our Isaiah reading earlier:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
As high as the heavens are above the earth,
so high are my ways above your ways
and my thoughts above your thoughts.
God is totally awesome!
Next. Take Jesus at his word when he says, “don’t be afraid.” You remember that Bible we gave you a few weeks ago? You’ll find that phrase, do not be afraid, or something similar, more than a hundred times throughout its pages. There are many fears that come with being a young teenage boy in our culture today. There are many fears that come with being a person of color in our culture today. There are many fears that come with navigating our complex lives. But take Jesus at his word and do not be afraid.
How do you do that? Well, here’s a secret: find someone you trust, who really gets you, someone you can tell your fears to. Someone who will understand them and just hold them. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your fear becomes empowering joy. When I was your age, my sister became my best friend and she just got me, and she still does.
Next. Believe it or not, this whole thing is not just about Jesus, it’s also about you. Throughout this week, and especially tonight, it’s easy to focus solely on what happened to Jesus—his entry into Jerusalem, his so-called trial and persecution, his crucifixion, and of course, his resurrection—but we must also focus on what happens to each one of us as we live our lives transformed by his rising. And tonight, your baptisms allow us to do just that. Your baptisms allow us to renew our own commitment and relationship with God and each other. So, even though you two are the newcomers, and it really is with true joy that we welcome you in, tonight we need you to lead the way.
Next to last. Pay attention to the women in your life. Why? Because, like Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, who were the first to discover the resurrection, the first to turn their fears into joy, the first to announce the good news to the disciples, the women in our lives often see things with the heart; and they just know important stuff before we do.
Finally, from this day forward, claim your power as a young man of Christ, for that is just what you are. Claim the power of the resurrection. Claim it just as Maya Angelou did in her poem, “I Rise.”
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain, I rise.
Leaving behind the nights of terror and fear, I rise.
Into a daybreak that’s wonderfully clear, I rise.
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise. I rise. I rise.
So, Jovanni, Francisco, now it’s time. Let’s get you wet, and then rub some oil on you both.