I like Jell-O, but not as a role model.
Red Jell-O with bananas or raspberries is wonderful. But I'm not going to imitate it.
Believe it or not, this is relevant to the two beautiful little girls we baptize today.
We heard a reading from Paul's letter to the Romans. "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds..." That sounds pretty dull to me. But there was an English priest who fixed it.
He worked with teenagers, like I do. And he noticed that young people weren't engaged by the stately but outdated language of the King James Version. He happened to be good with the Greek language, which is the original language of the New Testament. So he did a translation of Paul's letters for his teens.
He called it "Letters to Young Churches." His name was J.B. Phillips, and I have a copy of his translation. I love how he translates this line.
"Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-mold your minds from within."
I love that: Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold.
I like Jell-O, but not as a role model. People can make Jell-O into all kinds of shapes, using molds. I like to eat Jell-o, but I don't want to live like Jell-O. I'm not going to let the world around me squeeze me into its own mold. It tries to do just that, all the time. Advertising, peer pressure, media, pop culture...it can turn me into molded Jell-O.
So we baptize these two beautiful little girls today, Vivianna and Juliana. If I could send them a message in a bottle, if I could put that message in a time machine and get it to them long after I'm gone, it just might be this line. "Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-mold your minds from within."
That's kind of what baptism is all about. When we get baptized, we get cleaned up, washed off, and adopted into God's family. We become God's kids. And that means taking on the family image, the family resemblance, the family traditions.
We're going to be a different kind of people. We're going to be a little more like Jesus.
The family traits will slowly become ours: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. That's how Paul puts it in another letter, the one to the Galatians.
I'm not saying Christians are wonderful all the time. Far from it. We're as broken as anyone else. We are as messed up as the unchurched. We are as fallible and faulty as can be.
But baptism is a celebration of forgiveness. And baptism is a proclamation of our adoption into this new family. And baptism is a covenant to take on the family resemblance.
I like Jell-O, but not as a role model. I like to eat Jell-O, but don't want to live like Jell-O. Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-mold your minds from within. At every baptism, even we oldsters renew our promises to do just that.
There was an old TV commercial that said, "There's always room for Jell-O." Maybe so.
But there's always room for us in God's family. And God's family has a different style than that of the world.
The world around us wants to squeeze us into its own mold. God's family has a better style: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
There is always room for all that!