Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Life of Zoe

This year's Pentecost was especially joyful. The birthday of the Church was also the birthday of my firstborn daughter, Zoe. That is to say, more properly speaking, her first birthday. Rather felicitous, the more I think about it. For it was through Jesus' sending of the Spirit on that first Pentecost that Zoe's was brought to her second birth: Holy Baptism. The same Spirit that hovered over the waters of creation hovered over the waters of the font this past Sunday morning - as He does for all who are born of water and Spirit in the water by the Word. This is why Baptism is the birth canal of the Church. Baptized we are born anew. For while her first birth made her a daughter of Eve; her second birth made her a child of God. Baptism gives Zoe Christ's zoe, His life. It is the same for all God's children soaked in the waters first sanctified by Christ in the Jordan. Our first birth brings death; the second, life. By our first birth we enter into the old creation, death and decay; by our second birth we enter the new creation, where the former things have passed away.
Zoe's birth was, no doubt a joyous day; and her second birth - by water and Spirit into Christ's death and resurrection - was a joy upon joyous day - each moment greater than the last. It doesn't get much better than baptizing your own daughter. We servants of the Word are but honor guards for our great Lord of Sabaoth, like Reepicheep before Aslan: it is our sacred duty and reverent honor to speak, declare and make known the steadfast love of the Lord. A feeble pastor and father's hands used by our Heavenly Father to mark her as one redeemed by Christ the Crucified; to pour out His lavish, forgiving flood, washing away her sin; to be the mouthpiece that declares: "I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." I'd be lying if I told said I didn't tear up a bit. Who wouldn't? For this I am neither ashamed nor too proud.

Of course, emotion doesn't make a Baptism more or less powerful - that's the work of the Trinity. And He does it quite well - Behold, I make all things new! What with all His life breathing, death and life giving, faith creating power. Similarly, emotion doesn't lead to faith but faith very often leads to emotions. I often find the strongest of which is joy. Hearing the Word, seeing Zoe, speaking the Gospel into her ears, knowing the promises of Christ in the water and the Word, knowing that this father's delight was only a glimpse of our Heavenly Father's delight - I was quite simply, overwhelmed by holiness, surprised by joy.

And the beauty of this joyous occasion was further underscored by this precious, sleeping, little girl. Yes, that's right; Zoe slept through her entire Baptism. Not only when mom carried her up to the font, but the throughout whole thing. Zoe slept while Christ did His work. She was out cold. Like Adam in the garden - YHWH was busy building faith in her while she was sleeping. That's rather emblematic of how we enter the Kingdom of Heaven - not by strength or reason or any merit or worthiness in me, but purely out of Fatherly, divine goodness and mercy - even while she was sleeping. Like Jacob who slept as our Lord came gave him visions of heaven, Zoe slept while our Lord brought her into heaven through the One whom the angels ascended and descended upon as He was lifted up on the cross. He came to Zoe, like a thief in the night. For while Zoe was sleeping peacefully a war was raging around her; but the devil was no match for Christ the Victor of sin, death and hell; his fiery darts are doused by this Water and the Word; he was renounced, cast out and old Adam drowned. While Zoe was busy resting in her mother's arms, Christ was busy wresting her from the kingdom of darkness and bringing her into His marvelous light. While Zoe was breathing deeply and slowly, the Holy Spirit was breathing - deeply and powerfully - His life into her ears, heart and mind. While Zoe was being baptized by her earthly father, her Heavenly Father was doing all the work. And now she is God's own child, I gladly say it! Baptized into Christ. Like Eustace...un-dragoned. Like Moses...drawn out of the water. Like Namaan...cleansed in the river. Like Noah and his family...saved through the flood. Like the children of Israel...led through an aquatic exodus, ferried across death's raging flood, to join the saints in heaven, clothed in garments garments dipped in the blood of the Lamb.

As I was seeing Christ's work unfold on Sunday I beheld the words and Word of Jesus in action: "Truly, Truly I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God...Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it."

That is the life of Zoe and the zoe (life in Greek) of all who are baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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