Beloved People of St. Martin’s,
September 19 is a special day. On this day in 1965, the first Eucharist was held for what would eventually become known as St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, apparently in a rented room at an elementary school. This parish has come a long way from where it was 53 years ago. During that time also, St. Martin’s has been, and continues to be, home to multitudes of people and groups. I have seen this welcoming spirit in action, and it truly is a signature characteristic of this place and of our members and friends.
This Sunday, in our gospel from Mark 9:30-37, we will be reminded again about the importance of welcome: “Then he took a little child and put it among them, and taking it in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’”
Each Sunday, we get multiple opportunities to live out this gospel, to live our lives shaped by the generous welcome we offer to each other, both here at St. Martin’s and in our daily lives. This Sunday we will get a chance to live out this gospel in a particularly beautiful way, as we welcome one of our little children officially into the Body of Christ in baptism.
As we do this, we will re-member and rededicate ourselves anew to our Baptismal Covenant. Two of the questions we affirm in particular grow out of our gospel reading: “Will you seek and serve Christ in all personas, loving your neighbor as yourself?” and “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” To each question, we will answer, “I will, with God’s help.”
As we gather around this beloved child and her family, we will stand in unity with her and make promises to her and her family that we will support her as her church family always. No matter where she goes in her life, we will be part of the community that supported her and welcomed her, and joined together with her in the promises that form the foundation of our shared life in Christ.
As you are standing with her and with each other renewing your promises, look up. Look at the faces all around you. Each one of the people around you is also a beloved child of God, as beloved in God’s sight now as when they too were children. Know that you are also beloved children of God.
The heart of the Christian life is shared life. A shared life is an abundant life. The promises we make as Christians we make with one voice in community at our baptisms– as individuals, yes, but also as the community of St. Martin’s, which itself is a community within the universal Church that exists through time. With God’s help, may we always re-member and embody the welcome we have received into Christ’s Body, and continue to witness to the abundant welcome and love of God we each ourselves receive, again and again, through our Savior, Jesus.