Sunday, April 3, 2016
Baptism of Erin Christine Sheridan
Many people have asked us how Erin got her name, and I always find stories about people’s names fascinating. “Erin” means “Ireland,” which we liked because it complemented our last name and Rich’s Irish heritage, Sheridan being an Irish name. My grandma Helen’s middle name was Irene, which is a form of “Erin,” and my other grandma Leona’s middle name is Christine, so her name was a way to honor my grandmas. “Christine” of course is the feminine for Christian. But “Erin” also means “Peace” in Gaelic, and in Greek…being pastors we wanted a name that would carry some theological meaning, too, of course. Since Erin was born we’ve sometimes thought a better name would be the Greek for “terror” or “discontent,” but we hope and pray she’ll grow into that namesake of a Christian peacemaker. As Christians, we pray daily for peace. I find it very appropriate then that we hear Jesus say to the disciples three times in the gospel for this morning, “Peace be with you.” In a world that seems to be coming increasingly less full of peace, we pray that Jesus’ peace might be with us and with future generations as we seek to raise our daughter in the faith.
Now, my friends and family know this well – I’m not sure all of you here at Bethel have found this out yet about me – I am terrible about taking pictures, and I’m also terrible about doing anything really crafty. So centerpieces for the lunch downstairs today, for example, were very much designed and put together with help from my more crafty friends! Each month I try to take a picture of Erin but it’s nothing fancy, often “5 months” written in pen on a piece of scrap paper – I do realize some parents go to much greater lengths creatively for these milestones! I’ve also tried to keep up with Erin’s baby book. I’ve done pretty good with that, actually. In fact, when I sit down to write, I often find I need more room than what’s been given. I was sure to write down how she got her name, for example, but other cherished memories are up here, not in any book.
In the gospel this morning we also heard one of my favorite passages at the end of the doubting Thomas story: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” I’d like to think that we have a lot more to write about the wonders of what God has done in our lives than we have room for in the pages of any book. Certainly, John had that problem of deciding what milestones in Jesus’ ministry he would write down. Whenever parents and sponsors come to the font with a child who cannot speak for herself yet, they make certain promises, which include bringer her to the word of God and the holy supper and placing in her hands the holy scriptures. John reminds us today that the Bible is the written record of the acts of God throughout history, from Genesis to Revelation. But as John also notes, what we have in these written pages can’t contain all of what God has done throughout the ages and is CONTINUING to do now, today!
It is a HUGE privilege to be able to preach at my own daughter’s baptism. We know it’s a privilege even to be parents, through sharing the struggle of becoming parents with others. The journey of parenthood so far for us has been an awesome and yet also challenging one. We are sure that there will be more challenges and joys ahead! Today, we bring Erin to the font to declare our intentions to God in front of you all – that we plan to do our best as parents to raise our daughter in the faith by teaching her scripture, helping her learn how to pray, bringing her here to church to live among other Christians, and also teaching her to work for justice and peace so that she might one day live up to her namesake!
But we also bring her to the font today to recognize that there is so much that we CAN’T possibly do. Pretty much daily I hand this parenting thing over to God. I recognize that God our heavenly parent knows a lot more than I do about how to raise my daughter in the faith. And I cherish those words that remind me that we have a living God who will continue to work wonders in our lives and especially in Erin’s life, wherever she goes, that may not be written in any book, but are truly signs that Jesus is the Son of God, that we have life in his name. Today God gives Erin the name, “Christian,” the name that we all share, to remind us that we have life in Christ’s name.
You all, have a story of how God has been at work in your life, too, from your baptism until your dying day. Some of that story you might not even remember – so ask a sibling, a parent, look back in YOUR baby book! Some of that story exists now only in God’s memory…and some of it is important enough to write down and to share. Our life of faith doesn’t end with our baptism. That’s just the beginning – God has a much bigger story for us. Jesus is doing way more in our lives than we could ever write down in a book, but what are some things you might want to write down or to be sure to share, so that others could come to believe and have life in Jesus’ name? Today, we thank God for the gift of baptism, that we have life in Jesus’ name, and we ask God to give us the strength, courage, and grace, to live out that name we received in baptism, “Christian,” for the sake of that same name, Jesus Christ. Amen.