e-letter 1/11/19

While I was home for a little while after Christmas and preparing for our new series This is Us, I remembered something that I love about my family: sometimes, when we tell stories, we pull out our photo albums. These photo albums are treasure troves of memories, markers of stories in my family unit’s life. In anticipation of this particular weekend in worship, I remembered the photos of my sister and me being baptized at my mom’s home church in Norwalk, Ohio.  
I love these photos. It was December in Ohio, so my family is wearing many layers of clothing. My maternal grandparents and my mother’s sister are there, as our godparents. And, according to the pictures, I am there too! But I was about 18 months old when we were baptized, and the story is I didn’t handle being still and quiet very well. You can tell this by the pictures — I don’t look too pleased to be dunked in cold water in the Ohio winter! (Who would be?)  
This is the thing about these baptism photos: I have no recollection of that moment. I only know what it must’ve been like because of the stories my family has told, and the photos we have of the event. There are many moments in my childhood like this, that I only recollect through the stories repeated to me. I have to be reminded of where I came from, who I am, and who claims me. I would not know otherwise.   This Sunday in worship, we’ll remind each other of our baptism by celebrating the baptism of Jesus. We will also offer the opportunity for you to be baptized if you have not been. When we reaffirm our baptism in worship, one of the pastors will say to you, “Remember your baptism, and be thankful.” For some of you, your baptism is a crystal-clear adult memory. You mark it as a time of cleansing and a time of renewal. For others, you were claimed before you knew who you were as an infant. You remember your baptism because the memory is repeated to you. As United Methodists, we believe that God’s grace loves and claims each of us no matter when we are baptized. We have to be reminded of where we came from, who we are, and who claims us. We remember and are thankful.   It is easy to forget lots of things, including who we are. It is easy to ground our identity in what other folks think of us. It is easy to believe that all that matters is whether we are loved by our significant others, spouses, children, or friends. But in baptism, we celebrate an outward sign of an inward grace that we are claimed by God long before we know what that means. This “claim” is our truest identity: we are a beloved child of God and receive the gift of God’s miraculous grace without any effort on our own part. No matter what relationship we are in, God claims our lives first, calling us beloved and enough.  
So, let me remind you this day if you don’t know already: you are beloved. You are enough. Whether there are photos of your baptism, you remember it clearly, or it hasn’t happened at all, this is the truest thing about our lives. God loves you, God chooses you, and God calls you beloved child.  
We remember, and we are thankful.
See you Sunday,
Pastor Allee