In 1966, songwriter Burt Bacharach penned a song entitled, “What’s It All About Alfie?” The lyrics go like this: “What's it all about, Alfie? Is it just for the moment we live? What's it all about, when you sort it out, Alfie? Are we meant to take more than we give or are we meant to be kind? And if only fools are kind, Alfie, then I guess it is wise to be cruel. And if life belongs only to the strong Alfie, what will you lend on an old golden rule? As sure as I believe there's a heaven above Alfie, I know there's something much more. Something even non-believers can believe in, I believe in love, Alfie. Without true love we just exist, Alfie, until you find the love you've missed you're nothing, Alfie. When you walk let your heart lead the way, and you'll find love any day, Alfie, Alfie.”
This pop song contains remarkable overtones of Christian testimony about the golden rule, kindness, wisdom, heaven, believers, non-believers, existence, heart, and the greatest of these, love. “What’s It All About,” is an apt title for what we are experiencing today through baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
As to baptism, today, Michelle, Ron, and George showed their love for God and their acceptance of his gift by being clothed with Christ through baptism. Accepting Jesus is a very personal decision, yet we follow through with a very public act. We do this not for show but to testify before any and all who are present of the genuineness of that love and a commitment to live a life worthy of God’s gift.
This gift, what’s it all about? John’s Gospel gives the answer. John records, “For God so loved the world that he gave [he gifted] his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” God gave Jesus as a gift. Jesus is God’s expression of holiness in human form. Why such a gift? That we might believe in Jesus and in that belief be made right with God. Because God loved, he gave. Because he gave, those who believe, receive the gift of His love. However, the choice to accept the gift remains ours alone. God offers the gift but will not force us to accept his gift. Allow me to illustrate the notion of gifts.
Several years ago, my wife and I were home doing some chores in the house, when the doorbell rang. I went to the door but there was no one standing there. The only thing I saw as a small wrapped package on the front step. My work then with the Federal government made me suspicious and fearful of unexpected and unmarked package. So, I closed the door and left the package untouched. A few minutes later, I went back to look at the package but it was gone. We later learned that our neighborhood had a tradition of buying a gift and then secretly putting the gift on someone’s front step, ringing the doorbell, and hiding while they watched the family receive the gift. We had been selected that year to receive the gift, but because of fear and ignorance we rejected the gift.
God offers His love as a gift. We can accept it in faith or we can reject it out of fear. The choice is ours. For those who reject the gift, the story ends and they go without what was inside. For those of us who accept the gift, we learn what God’s love means. Paul said in our New Testament reading that through this gift we are enveloped by God’s love such that we are no longer Jew or Greek, we are no longer slave or free, we are no longer male and female; for we are all one in Christ Jesus. We all receive the promises of God, that whoever shall believe in Him, to whomever shall have the faith to accept God’s gift, shall experience His love and eternal life. If you have not yet received God’s gift of Jesus and expressed that love through baptism, please do not leave that gift untouched. Know that Jesus is calling you and does not want you to fear receiving him because he loves you. That is what our outward expression called baptism is all about.
One might also ask, “What is the Lord’s Supper all about?” What are we to make of these bits of bread and sips of juice? It is all about publicly reminding ourselves of the continuing presence of Jesus in our lives. It reminds of his love, his sacrifice, his forgiveness of sin, for his making and keeping us right with God. The bits of bread and sips of juice satisfy our spiritual hunger and thirst to be near God.
What's it all about? Is it just for the moment we live? As sure as I believe there's a heaven above, I know there's something much more. God decided many years ago to place a gift, that something much more, at your front door. He sent prophets, angels, apostles, teachers, preachers, and pastors to ring the doorbell of your heart that you might to see the gift, Jesus, before you. Each of them has said to you in many ways, “Fear not, I bring you good news of great joy.” God invites you in faith to open His gift and be enveloped by his love. Do not let the moment pass. Pick up the gift, unwrap it, and bring it into your life. Seal your love for the gift and the giver through baptism and then live a life worthy of that gift. That’s what it is all about. Amen and Amen.