Wisdom is the Wellspring of Life

Matthew 5:38-48
Baptism of Wells
Elizabeth M. Deibert

O Wisdom of God, Spirit of Truth, Wellspring of Life, come to us, open our hearts and minds, so we may hear your Word of life and be renewed by your power, through Christ our Teacher, Savior, and Lord.

For several weeks now, those churches like us following the common lectionary readings have been wading in the wellspring of life, the wisdom that is found in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. These are no easy words, nor should they be. While we are baptizing a bouncy, beautiful baby boy today, we are not just Christening him or giving thanks for gift of his life. No, we are baptizing Wells into the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a mysterious Sacrament of grace which marks him forever. We are claiming the promises of Christ’s baptismal covenant of new life for Wells, believing that he belongs to God, and promising by the power of the Spirit to help him know what that means. This is serious business. As we read this text I hope you will think with me about what it means for Wells to be baptized into the boldly forgiving kind of Christian life described by Jesus.

Much of the New Testament is composed of letters to the churches, so I asked the parents of Wells, both of them pastors you know, and the godfather of Wells, pastor-theologian-physician Richard, to write letters to Wells for this day. These letters, while addressed to Wells, are written to encourage each of you in your faith – to live out your baptismal promises with the confidence, the courage, and the compassion of the children of God. Listen now for what the Spirit is saying to her church:

Matthew 5:38-48

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'
39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer.
But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also;
40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well;
41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.
42 Give to everyone who begs from you,
and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
43 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven;
for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good,
and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.
46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?
Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others?
Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Dear Wells,

There’s this Lee Ann Womack song that brings tears to your mom as it expresses the hopes of a mother that her children will not choose to sit out on the hard parts of life, but will choose to dance. She hopes you will never “fear the mountains in the distance nor settle for the path of least resistance.”

Your mom picks you up and you dance with her now every time that song plays. You have no choice. She holds you close and you are safe and you participate in the dance. You also join in the dance of life with her, trusting her to carry and protect you, which is all you can do right now. She wants you to know that in baptism it is God holding you close. God is your protector. God is the One with whom you dance. You will be safe in God’s arms – no matter the dance – and she prays that when you are older you will continue to dance with God, choosing to follow along the narrow, more challenging steps.

She wants you to choose the path of peace, to turn your back on the ways of the world, to undermine that power of an evil-doer by not dancing his violent dance or playing his game of give and take, which is mostly about taking and not giving. She wants you to go the extra mile and to love your enemy, and she charges you with this, knowing that it is a dangerous way to live. But she has the courage to tell you this, even after she and your dad waited for you for two long years, because of her faith in Jesus Christ and her belief that the life of Christ is greater than anything death can toss at us.

Your father wants you to know that Christ calls you to turn away from a worldview that says some people are more valuable than others. Turn away from a world that seeks vengeance and fights fire with fire. Turn away from a world that is cowardly in confronting injustice. Power should be exercised for people. Christ calls you, your dad says, to a third way – to fight fire with water. You are part of the sacred drama that celebrates love over hate, mercy over vengeance, and abundance over scarcity.

Your name Wellspring points to this third way of neither being in the world – neither being a doormat for abusers nor playing the game of abusing. A wellspring is a gathering place, a place where life flourishes, where thirst is quenched and the earth blooms. At the wellspring all are welcome, generosity flows, and peace reigns.

You dad says that none of us can undertake this third way of being in the world, this way Jesus describes in the Sermon on the Mount until we see the wideness of God’s mercy and the abundance of God’s love. He challenges you to be generous with your love, forgiveness, and prayers because in God you will see that there is enough sun and rain for everyone, enough mercy for the righteous and the unrighteous.

Finally Wells, your Godparents, Richard and I, want you to know that while it seems ridiculous that Jesus would tell us to be perfect as God our Father in heaven is perfect, we want you to know, that it is in your baptism that this is possible. In your baptism into the life and death and resurrection of Christ that you are given power to become the person God made you to be, a person like Christ. In your baptism, you are given transformative power to become compassionate toward evil people, like Christ was. In your baptism you are given diplomatic power to love enemies as he did. In your baptism you are given creative, non-violent power to undermine the ruthlessness of those who would seek to do you harm.

In your baptism, you are given new life – Christ’s life. In your baptism, you are called to die to the power-mongering ways of the world. This life is both a gift of grace and a challenging call to a new way of being. A gift and a call. It is a life that that is giving and forgiving toward all, in sync with the footsteps of Christ.

Wells, you are called now to the dance of your life with none other than the Lord of the Dance. Your parents will carry you on this dance floor for a while, but little by little, you will begin taking your own steps in the dance. And one day, when you are a teenager, you will be asked to confirm your intention to continue the dance with Christ that you started with your family. You have many people in your life – Mason and Fields, your parents, your grandparents, and many church family members from your two churches. They can show you a few steps of the dance. Learn from them. But above all, remember the One who is the Lord of the Dance, who is the Prince of Peace, who is your Lord and your Savior, Jesus Christ, into whose life and death you are baptized. Remember that God’s overflowing love is the wellspring of your life, the wisdom by which you live. And the Spirit of peace will make you a channel of her peace and you will live into your name, Wellspring.

Let us now pray as we sing. “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace”