Matt wore a suit and the blue hairs thought he cleaned up nice. Jasper wore the baptismal outfit my brother Gabe wore. I wore a linen dress and sat up front until the baptism was over, Then I slipped into the sacristy and into my pastor duds. I had the classic Sunday-after-Easter text to work with: Thomas wants to see and feel the resurrection for himself. And while we really burn through this story hearing it every single year, I'm so glad Jasper's baptism is tangled up with this story. And here's some of what I had to say about that:
Jesus doesn’t razz Thomas and his demands because Thomas is aching for exactly what the others have already received: a sudden encounter with Jesus. Thomas has been longing for Jesus to come and find him. He is desperate for Jesus to show him what this resurrection means and that’s exactly what Jesus does.
He breaks through the locked doors and into this hiding place to find a vulnerable Thomas who thinks he’s missed the good news. And then Jesus holds out his hands and asks Thomas to touch. With a sudden presence, a word of peace and the invitation to see and feel what’s real, Jesus pulls Thomas back into community and back into the Great Story. Thomas was met by the God who comes to us – the God who finds us when we’re lonely and taking cover because we’re scared.
We have seven weeks of Easter because we need time for news of the resurrection to sink in. We need to hear stories about the disciples and the early church trying to figure out what new life in Christ means for our everyday lives. We need this whole season because it draws us together in worship, constantly reminding us that we didn’t earn this gift, nor do we have to track it down ourselves. Christ comes to us – he finds us and shows us what’s true again and again.
That’s one reason I’m so glad we’ve witnessed a baptism today. The promises spoken over the waters pulled us out of our own stuff – the things we’re trying to control, the things we loose sleep over and the things that isolate us. The service of baptism is rich with stories about God keeping promises since they very beginning – tales of God coming all the way to wherever we are (on the ark, in the desert, but also in depression and addiction, loneliness and anger). Here God finds us and redeems us with breath and water causing new life.
Jasper is not the only one who received these promises today. We have all been renewed by hearing them again, remembering that they are for us, too. We have all been restored by welcoming another sheep to the fold - another child showered with free promises and eternal love. We have all been revived by speaking our faith together, our voices rising up together as one body. God is here, drawing us out of our own stuff and back together into the Great Story – gathering us around the font and the table to touch with our own hands and see with our own eyes that the resurrection is real.
Jasper Wade – you will have your Thomas moments. You will feel left out and want proof and hide in fear sometimes. But that doesn’t mean you are weak in faith or mistrusting God’s gift. It means you are human and you need a Savior who comes to find you wherever you are. It means you will need a village that shares the story and believes in the everyday restoration of baptism. It means you will need to be reminded with each Easter season that the resurrection is bizarre and wonderful and real and for you…even though you didn’t earn it.
There is a cake downstairs that says, “Jasper Wade, you are saved by grace…whether you like it or not!” That’s the truth for this little one and for Thomas and for everyone washed clean in baptism. It’s the story of a love so powerful, it cannot be locked out or hidden from. It’s the story of a God who finds us when we’re lost and brings us back together – back into community and worship so we might be strengthened by seeing and feeling for ourselves.
And together we remember what is true – that God has already done all the difficult things – all the things that demand perfection. And so like Mary, Thomas and all the disciples, we are suddenly free to go and tell that Christ has risen! He has risen indeed.
And then there was cake. And people held him and others wanted to hold him and some pointed out that they hadn't yet held him. And people felt for themselves that new life was real. They remembered that resurrection and birth happen all the time...but sometimes we have to touch it to believe that it's right here in our midst - that Jesus comes to us in water, bread, wine and through each other. And then we thanked God for this little one we have all promised to show and tell the story to. Again and again and again.