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Baptized into Joy and Wonder

The Rev. Dr. William Rich
June 6, 2019

Theodore and Jackson: two new brothers! Mackenzie and Eva: two new sisters!  Together you and I will welcome four youngsters into this part of Christ’s Body as we baptize them this Sunday, the Feast of Pentecost.  God has already blessed them with the indescribably precious gift of life itself.  But we will ask God to give them more, as we pray: “Give them an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works.” (BCP, p. 308)


Joy and wonder seem to come naturally to children.  My six-year old cousin never failed to burst into joyful giggles as I spun him, arms fully extended, over the soft sand on summer visits to the beach.  I remember his sister, utterly transfixed and still, gazing with wonder into the open bell of a trumpet vine flower.  Perhaps it is this childlike joy and wonder that Jesus craves for us when he says, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)   


Joy and wonder can be powerful antidotes to the poison of adulthood’s daily grind, with its weight of worries and responsibilities.  As summer draws near, how might you and I practice wonder, and receive joy?


It can be particularly valuable to “turn to wonder” when something upsets us.  Let me share one example.  To carve out peace for saying Morning Prayer, I prefer riding in the “quiet car” on the train into work from Attleboro.  A few weeks ago, my quiet was interrupted by a man talking in full-voice on his cell phone.  My first reaction was anger, muttering to myself about how inconsiderate he was being.  But as he spoke, I kept overhearing him use the word “pain.” And I found wonder interrupting my anger.  I began to wonder: “Who is in pain?  This man or the person he is talking to?”  And as wondering took over, my anger began to dissipate.


The Holy Spirit can baptize any situation – even an upsetting one – with the opportunity for wonder.  And the advent of wonder can make space for the surprise of joy. Have you ever found the Spirit of wonder interrupting your daily grind and offering a breath of new life?  On that train ride, I found my upset give way to gratitude – surely one of the most elemental forms of joy.  Grateful joy that this man and his conversation partner had each other to talk to about pain.  Gratitude that I was not at that moment in any real pain.  Grateful joy that the Spirit had offered me a way out of my upset. 


May your summer be filled with “the gift of joy and wonder in all [God’s] works….”


In wonder at the joy the Spirit gives,


The Rev. Dr. William Rich



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