Gather the children with you at the baptismal font. Ask if anyone knows what this is called? Yep, it is the place we baptize, we get the person’s, often a baby, head wet and declare that they are a child of God. And YOU can remember your baptism, or remember you are a loved child of God even if you are not baptized, by putting your hand in the water and marking the sign of the cross. Let them try that briefly. Then direct to sit down.
Baptism is something that we call a ritual. It is a practice of the church to say certain prayers and blessings over a person getting baptized and it is a ritual that you have you remember and mark yourself with the water. A ritual is something we do again and again and often it reminds us of something. So let’s think a minute. Are there any rituals you do every day? (take answers and lead them to things like brushing teeth, washing hands. getting dressed, eating, sleeping) Yes! Those are rituals that are a part of every day.
So our gospel today from Mark is Jesus telling some church people that the rituals that they are doing are not totally helping them… hmmm, that is kind of confusing because they were doing what God told them, to keep wash their hands and to keep clean and staying away from certain foods. But they were also angry with Jesus and his followers because they were not doing those things. Jesus says, stop. You are using these rituals, these rules to only honor God on the outside but your heart is not focused on love and care for other people. God gave these rituals for loving and caring for others, not for being angry or hurting them.
So if we use a ritual, like baptism, to say that someone else is not ok or not loved then we are not talking about God. God opens up love to everyone. Jesus teaches us today that the ritual is good for helping us remember and that God’s love is over and above any ritual and is for all people.
Now, the ritual of remembering baptism can be a part of every day too, anytime you use water–for a bath, a shower, brush your teeth, to cook or to drink, You can remember God’s love for you and God’s love for your family and friends and even people you do not know! Pretty neat, right?
Have a hand washing station with a bowl of water, a little soap and some towels. Invite people to wash their hands while remembering God’s love for them. They could pray a prayer of thankfulness or pray for another person or simply recite the Lord’s prayer as they wash.