Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
We welcome our visitors today as we will celebrate the baptism of Thor Petursson Valentine, and affirm God’s love for him and all people. As I was preparing this sermon, I had just begun a book called “You Say Potato.” It’s not a children’s book. It is actually a book about accents, their origins and why there are so many accents even among people who share the English language! There are a few different accents just in our own state of New York!
I grew up in Smithtown NY, in what used to be a small town. But my accent came straight from Brooklyn because that’s where my parents grew up. As I lived in many other places in the country, my Brooklyn accent was ruined and I haven’t been able to get it back. I was fascinated to learn from this book how babies even before they are born recognize their mother’s accent. And even newborns can recognize that accent and calm down when they hear it, even from other members of the family. And when the child starts babbling , they actually babble with that same accent! Isn’t that amazing?
So it got me thinking, if people who live together in a particular place tend to have the same or similar accents. Do people who worship together have an accent? And if we Christians do share an accent, what would it be? I was talking about this with a colleague. She said, “Of course faithful people have an accent. It’s called love!” I think that’s true. God created the world out of love. Jesus came to live with us because of God’s love for all people. And we follow Jesus because of that love. Our passage from the gospel finds Jesus welcoming children to come to him and when the disciples tried to stop them, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” The disciples thought that the children were out of place. Surely they couldn’t understand all the important things the adults were talking about. Besides, children are disruptive.
In the previous verses of this chapter of Mark, the religious leaders of the time were trying to trap Jesus. The law they were talking about happened to be about divorce. You see there were two different points of view among the religious leaders. Should divorce be hard? Or should it be easy? But really they could have been arguing about any other of the many disputes religious leaders had. What they wanted was to get Jesus to take sides so they could drag him in to their endless arguing. But Jesus knew better. He told them marriage is about love, not law. See that? Jesus’s accent is always on love. So how are we to cultivate that accent? How do we put love at the top of our list of things to do every day?
People in this congregation know that I sometimes hang a post-it note on the dashboard of my car. Because I was raised by Brooklyn drivers, I absorbed their accent, their love for God, and their angry driving habits. That sign reminds me to put the accent on love wherever I am, and whatever I am doing.
We gather to worship to hear the gospels, and partake in Communion because we need to keep practicing putting the accent on love. And today, we are blessed to participate in one of the signs of God’s love. When I poured the water on Thor’s head, baptizing him in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, I was acting out God’s love for him. God’s love for Thor began way before we met here today. And it will continue for the rest of his life. Just as that love that we receive and share with all people will continue forever and ever. Amen.