Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations." Then I said, "Ah, Lord GOD! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy." But the LORD said to me, "Do not say, 'I am only a boy'; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD." Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me, "Now I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant."
When Christian and I were talking about his baptism a few weeks ago, I told him I was the exact same age when I got baptized. He turns ten this week (hurray!)’ Being ten is a beautiful time in your life, because you begin to recognize what it means to live beyond yourself. Sure, developmentally it’s important to let kids be kids. It’s equally important that we give avenues of meaning and purpose to young people. This helps us all (those teaching, those learning) claim WHO WE ARE in a sea of contradictory messages. I gave Christian an example of this within the baptism liturgy. When it says, “to resist oppression and evil,” that means we ignore any message that says we’re not worthy of love or purpose in this world. The world may say we are too young or too uneducated or too inexperienced to make a difference, and that’s simply not true. Resisting evil means shining a light on false messages that try to tell us we’re not worthy.
Theologian Fred Rogers assumed this work wholeheartedly, as he describes in his book: The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember. He says, “Whether we're a preschooler or a young teen, a graduating college senior or a retired person, we human beings all want to know that we're acceptable, that our being alive somehow makes a difference in the lives of others.”
Yes, and making a difference often opens a pathway to feeling loveable- to feeling worthy of living a full life, a vibrant and messy and wonderful life- no matter our age. And sometimes that requires breaking down the messages we’ve received that are the exact opposite of what God intends.
Take Jeremiah, called as one of God’s prophets from a young age. Charles L. Aaron, Jr. tells us, “The Lord’s charge to Jeremiah contains six verbs, four of which involve breaking down. Only after the way has cleared can Jeremiah create and construct.” In order to help God’s people hear the truth that God’s way leads to life abundant, Jeremiah needed to start by deconstructing the culture of his day with the truth of God. No, young people are not meant to sit down and shut up. “You are NOT only a boy, Jeremiah,” God says, “You are MY son, and you are worthy of doing big things with your life. Before you were born, I knew you. That is your value- you are a child of the living God.”
In the UCC, we baptize babies and toddlers and 4th graders and adults. The truth is, there’s no such thing as the “right age” to say yes to God in our life. Scripture reveals as much. If we have the heart to believe God’s word lives within us, God WILL use us to draw all people, even ourselves, closer to eternal love. Here’s a question we all get to ask ourselves on a Baptism Sunday: Do you trust the word of life written on your heart? Do you know that you are lovable? Do you believe you are a child of the living God?
Fred Rogers knew the value of young people and the fresh perspectives they bring this world. He said, “We need to help people to discover the true meaning of love. Love is generally confused with dependence. Those of us who have grown in true love know that we can love only in proportion to our capacity for independence.” Baptism is a quest for spiritual independence, grounded in the truth that spiritual connection with Christ IS freedom; None of us can save ourselves- and we certainly can’t save one another. But you better believe we can hold each other’s hands along the way. This is church at its finest, friends. Practicing love, growing faith, and embracing hope. Even as we live into our vows of baptism with Christian and his family today- may we reclaim our own connection with Christ.
A final quote from Fred Rogers “The connections we make in the course of a life--maybe that's what heaven is.” Jesus so badly wants us to connect with him. While each of us does this our own way, we also share the path, that’s the joy of it all, isn’t it? We see Christ more clearly when we witness Christ’s work in the life of another. If you need a reminder that you are indeed a child of the living God, take a cue from Jeremiah- and look to the children in our midst!
We thank God for Alaya, Luca, Henslee, Evelyn, Merritt, Charlotte, Otto, Theodore, Hugh, Fio, Grady, Veronica, Rayna, Pearl, Ike, Blaire, Truly, Tayson, Polly, Fox, Tayden, Zed, Clara, Wendalynn, Briggs, Logan, Emry, Emersen, Zach, George, Christian, Seth, Taylor, Maddox, Howie, Sawyer, Lorelei, Asher, Annaliese, Lizbeth, Helena, Jamiah, Luke, Avery, Jack, Sarah, Jenna; our college students and young adults. Everyone we strive to love and support through our baptismal vows. Each child & youth who has yet to make a connection with our church. All of us, better off for the vision and purpose children & youth provide. Praise be to God for our young neighbors!
Rev. Emily Munger
delights in connecting sacred texts with everyday life.