I decided that this needed to be a very short Reflection, given that in the time since Jarrah’s parents and I met to discuss Jarrah’s baptism, we’d had several lockdowns and Jarrah had grown into a very active toddler. I was right, and I’m not sure I managed to say all this on the day.
It is wonderful to welcome you here today to celebrate this service of baptism. Baptism is all about love. It is about the love that Jonathan and Natasha have for Jarrah, which has led them all to come here today. It is about the love felt by Jarrah’s family and friends, who have gathered here to bear witness and celebrate with them. It is about the love of this congregation, which welcomes Jarrah into it. But most of all, and most importantly, baptism is a sign of God’s love for Jarrah and for us all. The Uniting Church baptises babies and children without asking them to make any promises because we recognise that in baptism, as in all else, the initiative lies with the God who loves us and calls us here today. Jarrah’s baptism is a response to that call and that love.
Baptism reminds Jarrah who they already are, the beloved child of God. When Jesus was baptised, God’s voice was heard from the heavens saying to him: ‘You are my Son, the Beloved;* with you I am well pleased.’ Today Jarrah is baptised into Jesus’ baptism and God says the same words to them: ‘You are my beloved child; with you I am well pleased.” Baptism is making explicit something that has always been true. Jarrah has been God’s beloved since before they were born, and Jarrah will continue to be God’s beloved after their death. Nothing can separate us from the love of the God who created us.
Recently in Australia there has been lots of discussion about religious freedom and religious discrimination. I hope that Jarrah will never be discriminated against because of their faith, although many Christians around the world are and Jesus said this would happen and reassured those who experienced it would be blessed. But I also hope that Jarrah will live out the religious freedom that comes from living in the grace of God and seeking to follow in the footsteps of Christ. Because at the core of that freedom is the same love that is the meaning of baptism.
When God calls us by name and promises to be always with us, we are called to live lives that reflect Jesus’ teachings and imitate Jesus’ own life. Today we heard a small part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and it was all about the blessing that God offers the poor, the suffering, the excluded, the marginalised. The only religious freedom Christians are to seek is the freedom to love and serve, in imitation of Jesus who summed up his teaching with the two great commandments: ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ Any claims for a freedom that is not about this love are to be rejected.
Because, as I have repeated several times and say constantly, it is all about love. The love that created the cosmos and made the stars shine, is the same love that surrounds Jarrah today and always. Nothing will separate Jarrah from that love, as nothing can separate us. The God who is love reaches out to us in love and today we answer God’s love with joy and celebration. May Jarrah always walk in love. Amen.