January 8, 2013

With God’s Help

Filed under: Children and Families,Lectionary — by Lisa Meeder Turnbull @ 5:23 pm

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him our beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.[i]

I’m pretty sure we can agree that Jesus’ parents didn’t have an easy time of it. First there was the socially awkward conception…. Mary had to give birth away from home…. Then they fled the country when she would rather have raised the baby with her family.

Yet they still managed to hold it together as good Jewish parents…most of the time. His bris was lovely, with those beautiful words of Simeon. But they lost him after his Bar Mitzvah—they didn’t even notice that he was missing until they were well on the road!

With all that they had to deal with, in this week’s lectionary readings it’s nice to see Mary and Joseph finally catch a break—Jesus presented himself to his cousin John, baptizing there in the wilderness of Judea.

While I would never, ever trade places with Mary, I can honestly say that presenting our infant daughter for baptism is the single most intimidating thing I have ever had to do. Wedding vows pale in comparison to reading the sacrament of Holy Baptism through the eyes of a parent. Going before a judge to finalize her adoption was a snap after presenting her to the priest and congregation.

It was quite the event: the church’s baptism coordinator had the moms of all seven babies in the Pentecost batch on speed dial. The Associate Rector held a rehearsal on Saturday morning. We planned activities and made up gift bags for out of town guests, hosted a Saturday night dinner at home, and went out for Sunday brunch. The baby had three fittings for her gown, sat for a portrait, and spit up all over my dusty rose silk suit just before the service started.

And like any event that takes on a life of its own, the details could very easily have drowned out the deeper significance of the spiritual journey that began with two, who became one, and now were three.

I am so thankful that as the music moved us toward the font, I was able to shut out all the trappings and focus on the working of the Holy Spirit in that moment. I was glad that I had incorporated a renewal of the Baptismal Covenant into my wedding vows. I loved it that Robert’s Best Man and his wife now stood with us as Godparents. It meant the world to me that my father, who had been my Man of Honor, had worked with me to have my mother’s wedding dress remade as a baptismal gown. Instead of getting lost in details that had no eternal significance, I immersed myself in continuity and community.

Then came the vows, that moment in the movie when the dream sequence snaps back to reality.

Will you be responsible for seeing that the child you present is brought up in the Christian faith and life?

Will you by your prayers and witness help this child to grow into the full stature of Christ?

Oh man…I could really screw this up. How am I ever going to manage it?

The grace, of course, is that we make these promises “with God’s help.” That’s the only way any of us can even begin to manage it. A few weeks after The Great Baptismal Event, I myself knelt at the same altar as a confirmand…with God’s help. A few years later, I presented my Anglican husband to be received in the Episcopal Church…with God’s help.

Today I am the parent of a questioning youth, one who “believes in everything that goes on in church; I just don’t like the bread.” (She’s a wafer girl.) A few months ago she asked what confirmation means. After I explained she said, “But what if the bishop asks me and I say no?”

I assured her that the bishop won’t ask her until, through prayer and discernment, she is sure of her answer.

And I assured myself that she will…eventually…with God’s help.

[i] BCP, p. 214.


1 Comment »

  1. This is written as only a caring mother could write it. Having been through all you have described, several times, it really hit a chord with me.
    With God’s help, i trust that they each are walking their own path to Him, even though at times to me it seems they are taking a circuitous route.
    I would hate to be a parent without God’s help.
    Thank you for such an insightful essay today.

    Comment by Joline — January 9, 2013 @ 7:26 am |Reply

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