One of my favorite books to give as a gift this Christmas is Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead. The book’s narrator is an elderly minister who knows he’s about to die after a long and faithful but fairly quiet life as a pastor. He’s writing to his young son, the child of a late-in-life marriage to a much younger woman, about things like watching his little boy play in the sprinkler, and a young couple walking in the rain. Water, the stuff of life. But he also tells the story of one of his childhood exploits as a preacher’s kid who, with another PK, decided to baptize a litter of kittens. The boys took this all very seriously, he says, but the mother cat didn’t appreciate what they were doing with her babies, and she interrupted their little service and took the kittens away – right in mid-baptism.
Afterward, the preacher’s little boy tries to reflect theologically on what had happened that day, but when he asks his father the pastor – just sort of theoretically, of course – about baptizing cats, he gets a stern lecture about respecting the sacraments. The boy, of course, felt that they had been respectful, for “we thought the whole world of those cats.” Now, at the end of his life and after many years of baptizing the faithful of his flock, the old pastor looks back on that day from his childhood, and he remembers the feel of “those warm little brows,” experiencing the difference between petting a cat and touching it “with the pure intention of blessing it.”
This Sunday, in this season of Epiphany, we remember our baptisms. Let us bring our whole selves with our pure intentions to experience God’s blessing.