My nephew, Francis Matthew Sapp, was born on April 17th, 2016. This weekend, he will be baptized in an Episcopal ceremony and dedicated in a Baptist worship service.
I wrote a letter to him to mark the occasion. It's really just a random assortment of thoughts, but I thought we all might benefit from reading them. So here they are.
You won't remember this, but a lot of people are getting together this weekend for both your Episcopal baptism and your Baptist baby dedication.
A lot of kids these days don’t get dedicated or baptized in a church when they’re born. That makes you pretty lucky. Even fewer have parents who take their faith traditions seriously enough to want to do both. That makes you doubly lucky.
When you get older, I’ll do my best to explain the history behind why one church does one thing and the other another—and which one Jesus (who I'm pretty sure was a Baptist) would most approve of.
But, for now, as you're introduced to the love and care of Christ’s church, I hope you'll indulge me as I offer a few words of advice that I hope you'll find helpful along life's journey.
1. You never grow up. If you’re like your uncle, you’ll always be a child at heart—at least for your first thirty-seven years. So be willing to claim responsibility before you feel ready for it. If you wait for the day you feel prepared, it will never come. The sooner you realize this, the better off you’ll be.
2. Don't be afraid to embrace the mystery of God. In this life, you’ll never quite pin God down. But there’s great profit in spending your life trying to anyway, because one day in the effort, God will pin you down, and you’ll know, if only for an instant, who God is.
And then, too quickly, the mystery will return, but with a different and improved quality. Embrace the mystery again and repeat.
3. You have wonderful parents who love you more than anything else in the world. You should listen to them, mostly. Sometimes, though, they’ll encourage you to be too cautious because they love you and want to protect you. And, sometimes, because they're partially convinced you're a superhero, they’ll encourage you to be too daring. So, listen to your parents; but also, listen to your heart.
4. Be trusting. Everyone you choose to place your trust in will eventually hurt you—sometimes badly. Choose to trust anyway. People who refuse to trust live unhappy lives.
5. Read and travel widely. There is no better education. And give appropriate value to every experience, good and bad. The hard-earned knowledge you gain from personal experience is an incredible gift, as unique to you as you are to the world. Treasure it as such.
6. Two things are required to make a difference in this world: compassion and courage. If you're like your parents, you've been blessed with a double measure of both. Don't let the world rob you of either. If you can successfully pair compassion and courage with whatever it is you choose to do in life, they will take you far.
7. And, finally, always remember that as one created by God and in God's image you are invested with a deep and abiding goodness.
Always treat yourself and others in a way that reflects this deep truth.
As a child of God, you were, on the day you were born, given all the resources you will ever need to speak for truth, to stand for justice, to know what’s right--and to do it, to love always, and to pursue God’s plan for your life, whatever it may be.
So live with steadfast focus, unwavering commitment, and dogged determination to be everything God created you to be, always remembering the love of your family and the fellowship of God's church.
And, if I've learned one thing so far in life, it's this. Perseverance is the key to success. So no matter what happens, no matter what mistakes you make or challenges you face, no matter how bad things look, remember your baptism.
That is to say, remember who you are and whose you are, and don’t ever, ever, ever give up.
My advice to Frank. I hope some of it resonated with you.
See you Sunday.