October Journal, Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity

A friend of ours died last month of brain cancer at the age of 66, too young.

Shelley was also too good for this Earth. She had a big smile and large wondrous eyes and a sense that her heart was so full of joy it might overflow, so she needed to give away as much as she could. She loved people and gathered them like family. She didn’t waste a moment of her life, always planning the next outdoors adventure (hiking, biking) or indoors entertainment (local live theater) or holiday gatherings with all the trimmings and décor. When her children were grown and moved out of state she traveled to New York and Arkansas. She loved her new grandson, Harrison, and showed me pics of the children’s playset in the back yard she had set up for him. She had billions of pics on her phone, and when I visited once, I smiled at the images covering every spare inch of appliances and walls. This was the Shelley I knew and loved, holding everyone close to her heart, and also close to her sight.

She will be greatly missed. But I’m looking forward to catching up with her in Heaven and seeing what new adventure she is planning with the choir of angels. Will she organize skating on the streets of gold? I think she will like the gates of precious stones (or is it pearls?) and the river that runs by the throne of God, where we will gather one day.

And yet we mourn. We mourn for ourselves more than for her – a light has gone out that burned brightly in our lives. Part of my heart has darkened and grown suddenly sad.

And so I was glad this morning to witness three infant baptisms at our local parish church. This new life, these children of God, were anointed by the Holy Spirit though the waters of Baptism, a lovely sacrament of Catholic belief and practice. Those baptized are washed clean of mankind’s Original Sin, the sin of Adam, and born again, reborn, into the Christian community, the Church, the Bride of Christ. The priest says:

“WE receive this Child into the congregation of Christ’s flock; and do sign him [or her] with the sign of the Cross, in token that hereafter he shall not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, and manfully to fight under his banner, against sin, the world, and the devil; and to continue Christ’s faithful soldier and servant unto his life’s end. Amen.” (BCP 1928, 280)

I often think of those phrases in today’s world, especially “not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified…” In an age when the State increasingly encroaches upon parental and familial rights, when truth is no longer true, when two plus two no longer equals four, when men are women and women are men, when children are offered for sacrifice upon the altar of pedophilia and transgenderism – I could go on – we must not be ashamed of our faith of Christ crucified.

For the faith of Christ crucified is the faith of Christ resurrected. He holds his hand out to ours, to lead us in the way of all truth. It is the way of life, of rebirth, of eternity. It is the faith of God’s love for us, each and every one. Christ crucified and resurrected is the love of God poured out for us. Such love!

We gathered in the parish hall to celebrate the glorious event. We celebrated family and faith, and our love for one another. We chatted and nibbled to the happy sounds of children playing nearby. And as I glanced across the room I recalled many other moments like this, moments of faithful celebration in the parish hall.

The moments formed a garland through time, a necklace so beautiful it surely was made of the precious stones of gates of the New Jerusalem in Heaven. In the Church on Earth, these life-giving rituals repeat through our time, the words and melodies clothing us with the love of God, living truths that pass all human knowledge. For as St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Church of Ephesus, read to us this day, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one of hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Ephesians 4)

It was a sweet recollection, these baptismal moments, and even sweeter that the young man who read the Epistle to us from the lectern was one of my Sunday School children of long ago – many, many, years ago. Today he has his own family – growing up so fast – and one day they will have theirs too. I pray that this is so, and that the garland grows with the birth of each child, so precious. I pray that each and every one will not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified and be given the gift of life eternal promised by our own living Christ, resurrected among us.

Shelley would like that, I’m sure.

Rest in peace, my friend, and may light perpetual shine upon you, until we meet again.

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