Grace Cathedral welcomed new members into our Christian story on Sunday, August 5. Babies and adults alike were splashed with water and given a thumb’s worth of oil on the forehead. Wrapped in dazzling white robes and carrying a freshly lit candle, we the Cathedral community, welcomed them to their new life in Christ. The physical markings of Baptism represent the mystery of God saying “yes” to us.
“Unique and unrepeatable.” That was how the Very Rev. Dr. Alan Jones described the newly baptized, and indeed, how we affirm God makes each of us. “The most shocking doctrine of the early church wasn’t the virgin birth or the resurrection, it was the proclamation that everybody matters.” A “yes” from God to all of us.
Pausing from his prepared remarks, he turned to one of the infants and remarked, “You are smashing. Stunning. Yes, you are. Yes!” And then to the congregation, he said, “She gets it, you see. She understands doctrine in ways that we don’t.”
Something quite by contrast, Jones gave an analysis of modern life and the disconnect from wholeness we feel there. The emphasis of our culture is on “rancid individuality.” The idea, as Jones describes, is that our reality is divided up into an image like pieces of a pie and that for me to have a bigger piece someone else must have a smaller piece. So in sharing a piece of my pie, (i.e. energy, time, money, resources) my piece is lessened. But not so with love. “Love is not diminished by sharing. Love increases when we share it.” This resonates deeply with me and the times in which we live.
My absolutely favorite part of Jones’ sermon that morning is his remembrance of another Baptism at Grace Cathedral. He recalls seeing two or three elderly ladies leaning over an infant to be baptized saying, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” This is precisely what happens in Baptism. A radical and subversive “yes” from God to all of us about each of us. Each and every individual.
“Dear God, we thank you that in your wild generosity, you have called us to be human: unique; open; a mystery. Teach us to be subversive.” This is how Jones opened that morning and how we welcomed new humans into our shared life in Christ.
As God subversively says “yes” to each of us in the mystery of our unique and mysterious humanity, let us do the same.