Sermon preached at Crescent Springs Presbyterian on the Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time.
O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.
Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
I come to the end—I am still with you.
Today we celebrate Nora and Carolyn, two of our sisters in Christ. We celebrate that God is working in their lives, always has been, always will be. We celebrate that God has knit them together with such care and artistry, that they are fearfully and wonderfully made. We celebrate that we have grown as a family today, adding two new sisters in Christ to our ranks.
Today we also made promises: promises to guide and nurture and love Carolyn and Nora, to be there for them, to be their friends, their teachers, their family in Christ. And I suspect that Marianne and Tyler and Tom and Stacey made promises a long time ago—perhaps not as formally as they did today, but parenthood is itself a promise—a promise to be an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on, a promise to put bandaids on injuries that aren’t there and scare the monsters away at night, a promise to show up at piano recitals and soccer games and award night at school; a promise to love forever, without condition, without cost. Parenthood is a long, holy promise.
Looking at Carolyn and Nora today, I imagine that we would like nothing better than to never let them go. We would keep them here, at the center of a web of love, so that they are always safe and always cared for.
And yet, for all our prayers and all our promises, there will come a day when they wander somewhere we cannot follow them, whether it is the halls of middle school or the tunnels of self-doubt or the farthest limits of the sea. There will come a day when we do not know what is going on inside them, what they will say to us, where they are going. I am not a parent, but I remember what it was like from the child’s point of view; I remember the first time my mom did not know how to help. I remember how it broke her heart, because all she wanted to do was make it better. I know now how strong her faith had to be, to trust me to God’s care, beyond her own.
I do not say this to make you sad. I say it to make you brave, brave enough to let them go when it comes time. Because they will not go alone. Even if you cannot follow, God will be right there, surrounding them, hemming them in behind and before. Even if you cannot understand what they are thinking, God will know. Even if you cannot see through the darkness, God’s eyes of love will be latched on to Nora and Carolyn every moment. They may not themselves realize it, but I pray that eventually they will come to echo the words of the psalmist: “O Lord, you have searched me and known me… I come to the end—I am still with you.”
The day is coming when they will go, but until then, it is our job to share with Carolyn and Nora God’s loving presence. And when I say our job, I mean everybody here—every last one of us. Because that’s what you have done, Stacy and Marianne and Tyler and Tom—that’s what you’ve done by choosing to baptize Nora and Carolyn into the church today—you have ensured that all of us will be here to share God’s love with your daughters, that they will know God’s care at every turn. You have agreed not to go it alone yourselves. And so in the years to come we will love and guide and teach and nurture and cherish. We will take delight in learning who God has called Nora and Carolyn to be, what their senses of humors are like and what their favorite songs are and what gifts for discipleship will be. We will tell them the story of this day, a day when they were washed in God’s grace. We will do our best to surround them with Christ’s love, so that when they are finally called to go on a journey of their own, they will know, deep in their bones, that they never go alone.