The Gift of Life

Pentecost, Year A

John 20:19-23


Today, we will baptize baby Iris. Her baptism is a new birth, a second birth, into the family of God. Her parents have already given her the gift of life. She is perfect, just as she is. She is beautiful. She has all that she needs to grow and flourish as a human being. And yet, her parents bring her here today to be baptized, because they know that there is something more. Her parents, grandparents, and her godparents will stand with her and make promises for her because they know that there is more to life than what we are born with.

We know that there is life, and there is life. There is the life of work, hunger, passions, pain, pleasure and struggle, and then there is eternal life – life in God and life with God.

In the New Testament scriptures there are two different Greek words for life: psychi and zoe. Psychi and zoe refer to two very different kinds of life.

Psychi is the life we are born to. Psychi is the life that we have because we are alive. Psychi life is all that you have by virtue of being a living, breathing human. Psychi is our stuff, our struggles, our possessions, and our bodies. We need psychi life. But psychi life is not enough.

Jesus offers us a different quality of life. He offers us a life that is energized by love. Jesus offers a kind of life that fills the empty spaces in our hearts and makes us whole and complete. Sometimes he talks about this as “eternal life”. In the Greek, this kind of life is called zoe. Eternal life, or zoe, is a life lived in loving relationship with God and with one another.

Zoe life is what Jesus gives to the disciples in that locked upper room. He appears among them and says, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” He is giving them zoe. Then he breaths on them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit!” Jesus is giving them zoe life! Jesus is giving to the disciples, and he gives to us, a quality of life that goes beyond our physical comforts and needs. Jesus makes possible life filled with God’s Spirit of love.

The gift of the Holy Spirit is what makes zoe life possible. God gave to the first disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit, and God continues to give us that gift. Because we have the Holy Spirit, Jesus is present and alive to us. The Holy Spirit teaches us and inspires us, so that we continue to learn from the scriptures and we continue to encounter Jesus. We can know God and be united with God because we have the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Today we will share that gift with Iris. Iris will be baptized into the family of God. She will share in zoe life with us. Her psychi life will be blessed and she will become a part of zoe life. As a member of this family, she will share in the mission of Christ: She will be blessed with God’s love and she will share God’s love with others. Iris will be born into zoe life and she will be sent, just as Jesus was sent by the father, and just as we are each sent, to bring life and love to the world.

We are also going to dedicate our new stained glass window today. This window was entitled, “The Light of God.” The beautiful branches and leaves and flashes of color in this window remind us of the special, beautiful quality of life that Jesus offers. The colors of this window are a sign of zoe life, eternal life, that special quality of life lived in the beauty of God’s love.

Today’s baptism will take place around the font in the narthex. We will stand under our new window, bathed in the light of God, and we will welcome Iris into the family of Christ. We will move to the Narthex in procession, following the crucifer. The Crucifer and torches will lead the family, then the ministers will follow the family, then each of you in the pews are invited to follow us. Follow along in a line, one or two abreast, and we will form a large circle around the font. The choir will bring up the rear of the line.

If you have trouble standing, you can sit on one of the couches. If you are in a wheel chair, please join right in the procession and position yourself where you can see the font.

The Rev. David Marshall

St. Dunstan’s Church, Shoreline WA

June 12, 2011

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