A letter to Elise on the Occasion of her Baptism
July 2nd 2017
It is perhaps just as well that you are not paying rapt attention to this letter addressed to you on the morning of your baptism, for we have just hear a strange and disturbing story from the Hebrew scriptures, about a father who nearly sacrifices his own dear child. (Genesis 22:1-14 – Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac)
A `Sacrifice’ is the offering of animal, plant, or human life or of some material possession to a deity, (God) because that’s what we think God wants or needs from us.
This story raises more questions than it answers. We do know that this is a turning point though, in which the Hebrew people realized that God does not want us to harm anyone for God’s sake. We don’t sacrifice children anymore? Or do we?
Gord Waldie, writes in the current Gathering magazine: – “We give thanks that we no longer sacrifice human beings. But then we think of those who are left to fall through the cracks. We remember the ones who are kept homeless so that our taxes stop going up, those who are underpaid for their labour so we can have cheaper goods.
Well, at least we don’t sacrifice our own children. Or do we? Think of our reluctance to change how the world operates, how our natural world is degraded, and polluted – are we not in danger of sacrificing our own children’s future?”
It is a somber thought, Elise, and we need to pay attention. But today you are brought here by your loving parents, – not as a sacrifice, but as gift to be blessed. As a congregation we make a pledge to support you and your family. We believe that all children, whether a part of this tiny congregation, or fleeing for their lives as refugees, whether trying to live up to expectations of perfection, or simply trying to stay alive on the mean streets of life – all children are worthy of love, support, dignity, access to clean water and adequate food, education and safety. All children have the right to know that they are spiritual beings – who experience the sacredness of life and have much to teach their elders if we would be open.
The celebration of your baptism comes just one day after our country has celebrated the 150th anniversary of confederation. We have so much to be grateful for as we reflect on this beautiful country. To be sure as a nation, we have a past that has not always been noble, or fair to all of its citizens or those who sought to be full citizens. Still, yet there is so much beauty and strength and possibility in this country. We can worship freely, we can disagree with our government and not be silenced, we can choose whom we will love, where we will live, what we will wear, and we can celebrate our rich diversity and the gifts that all peoples have brought to the banquet of life.
And – we are the Canadians of today who can help ensure that the future is fair, that reconciliation and restoration happens, that justice and peace walk hand in hand. That indeed is reason to celebrate.
Today, for the first time ever, hundreds of people across this country will celebrate becoming new Canadians. You were born a Canadian and you have within your very DNA, those who were welcomed to this land which is celebrating 150 years of confederation, and those who celebrate 15,000 years of living in this land we now call Canada. What a gift you have. What a gift you are.
No more child sacrifices Elise. May we honour the God of love with the sacrifice of our comfort at the expense of others, our time to listen to the disempowered and the lonely, our talent to seek ways to live with respect in creation and with the beautiful diversity of all Earth’s people and creatures.
By the time you are old enough to read this letter for yourself, dear Elise, not all who witness your baptism today may be alive to witness your reading skills. But here’s what you can count on – know today that you are loved and accepted and indeed cherished, and will be surrounded by the spiritual strength of your faith ancestors including those we read about in scripture, and including those present today. You were loved even before you were born, and that love will never leave you, even in the inevitable dark nights of the soul. That love comes from your parents Wayne and Amanda, and your siblings – Eldon, Owen and Georgia, from each person here, from people you have yet to meet, and it comes from God, for God is the fullness of love. Welcome dear child, you are a blessing and you are blessed.
Love, Rev. Juanita & the congregation of Sicamous United Church