“To me, living is Christ…” these are powerful words that open our lesson from Paul’s letter to the Phillipians. Paul is telling us that his whole life is dedicated to Jesus, to proclaiming and living into the gospel that he has been given and promised. Every action that Paul takes is an action that he hopes is influenced by his discipleship to our Lord. He goes on to say that the promise of salvation, while good news, is difficult news, that could mean suffering for those who choose to become disciples. The suffering is not caused by Jesus, but as we know, sometimes the life of discipleship calls us into places that are difficult; when Jesus dared to defy the empire, he was hung on a cross; we who are his followers, are called to no less than that.

In one of her essays, the name of which I cannot remember now, Annie Dillard talks about going to church and how nice it all looks and seems. She has a moment of disconnect because everyone is in their Sunday best, and everything looks so calm. But she thinks that the reality of church, of sacrament, is somewhat different; she thinks we all ought to come to church crash helmets for our own safety. Sacrament, those ordinary moments of grace, are infused with meaning, meaning that we don’t fully understand, but that we keep realizing as we continue to participate in them. Today, we celebrate the baptisms of Lily and Caroline. In our wonderful tradition, the ordinary symbols of water and fragrant oil, become the means by which they will experience God’s love and grace. As water is poured on them in the name of the Trinity, they begin a new life in Jesus; today, their lives, like Paul’s become living in Christ; today they begin their journey as disciples who will be sealed by God’s Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever… that cross of oil that will be placed on their heads, while we might not see it, will be there forever. That same Holy Spirit that moved over the waters of creation will live within them, helping them to grow into their true selves, as Christ’s beloved. And we who are gathered here today will renew our own baptismal vows, so that we might remember that we too are marked as Christ’s own forever, and that as members of his body, there are expectations for how we are to serve him. As we welcome Lily and Caroline into the body of Christ, we are also to remember that we have a responsibility to see that we help them to live into their new life in Christ; we are now their family, brothers and sisters on the same journey of faith and discipleship; when they look to us, I hope that they will experience the abundant love of God through us, as we will through them.

Today, Lily and Caroline will become members of God’s kingdom; it is a kingdom where we learn in our gospel today that the last shall be first, for that is how God’s generous love works. There is always enough for all us; always enough even when the rest of the world around us puts itself before others. The love of Jesus overflows so that all who come can be loved and forgiven no matter who they are. It is good news for all of us, both when we cross from this life to the next, but also in this life here; and as disciples, we stand firm in faith and in love, sharing that good news of the kingdom with Lily and Caroline; and as we go from this place, may we also share that love and forgiveness with everyone we encounter. There are some days when the commandments to love God and love our neighbor aren’t easy; some days, it might even be dangerous; but Jesus went all the way to the cross, so that we would never live into our call alone. He is everywhere that we will ever go, loving us, and guiding our every step. That is the love and power that Lily and Caroline receive today. May they always know that the love of Jesus will never leave them.