Sunday, 2 May 2010

A double baptism

What a wonderful morning! The joy was palpable in church as two adorable baby boys were baptised. Here's the reading and sermon:

John 13:31-35
When Judas had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

This is a joyful day! The angels and all of heaven are smiling down on us, because of the love that has brought these two beautiful children to this point, and the willingness of these parents to accept the offering of life in Jesus Christ for their families.

Some may wonder about baptising babies, when those babies aren’t able to consciously affirm their baptismal vows for themselves. But since the earliest days of the Church it has been the case that families and communities, including babies and children, were often baptised together; and so the Church is inclusive in this way.

These days when our society emphasises individualism, it can seem very counter-cultural to encourage a community-centred approach to life. But in reality, this is what Christianity is supposed to be – a community of people who encourage each other to be faithful to God, and who support each other for their mutual flourishing. And that’s part of the role of parents, grandparents and Godparents and the church community as a whole. It’s the ethos that ‘it takes a whole village to raise a child’. We all need the support of others on this journey of life and especially the journey of faith. Because in essence, that is what Jesus wants for us and he promises also to be there for us, when we trust him and seek the guidance of his Spirit.

In our bible reading, Jesus gives a new commandment to ‘love one another’. Not with the limited kind of ‘love’ we usually offer to others, but with unlimited and unconditional ‘love’, as Jesus loved. When Jesus walked the earth, he demonstrated how we should ‘love one another’ to the point where it becomes costly – to the point where it is sacrificial.

And perhaps the hardest part is that loving one another doesn’t just mean loving those who are easy to love. Being part of a church community means that we’re brought together with some people who we find easy to be around and to love, and others that can be quite challenging (for all kinds of reasons!). And again, it is counter-cultural to choose to be part of such a community.

In the early Church, when it was dangerous to be a Christian, baptism was the ritual through which you entered the world of excitement and risk that was the Christian church. Where is that excitement and risk in the Church today? Well, following Christ and participating in God’s mission in the world is as exciting and as risky as we’re willing to make it.

But Church certainly isn’t meant to be an exclusive ‘club’...Increasingly we are realising that the most healthy, vibrant and growing communities are those that include – that bring diverse people together – to worship, to learn from each other and to learn to love one another. This isn’t easy; because in varying degrees we all have the human traits of selfishness and possessiveness.

But God’s kingdom is about the reconciliation and renewal of the whole of creation. That’s what God is up to, and that’s what God wants us to help him with! And the way that comes about has everything to do with today – with baptismal vows taken seriously. ‘To follow Christ means dying to sin and rising to new life with him’! And to do that we need God’s Spirit.

The Spirit is already at work in the world and in each one of us, whether we’ve accepted him into our heart or not – but to consciously invite God’s Spirit into our life means we can cooperate with God’s Spirit.

And those of us who have been following Christ for a long time find that this needs to be a conscious choice each and every day, to invite the Spirit’s presence, to listen for the Spirit’s guidance, and to receive the Spirit’s comfort. Many here today will confirm the times when God’s Spirit has helped us through the pain and the suffering that is still a part of living in this world. We can cry out to Jesus, who is the spring of living water that enables us to carry on in times of struggle; who refreshes us so that we can find the way to love others – as he has loved us.

Through their baptism, [these children] are part of the body of Christ, which is the Church. A Church with vision, a Church of the resurrection, of love, of the God who lives among us, must be a Church that blurs every line, and invites everyone into the grace and love of God – and a Church that challenges the lines that exclude and oppress.

Here today, we pray that as [these children] grow, they will grasp with both hands the promise given by Jesus, who came so that we might have life in all its fullness. We pray that they will want to participate in the reconciling mission of God in the world, something to which he is calling each one of us. And for all of us, we pray for the living water of Jesus Christ to flood us and to make us new. Amen.

1 comment:

  1. wow--so beautiful is this sermon! I esp. appreciate "But since the earliest days of the Church it has been the case that families and communities, including babies and children, were often baptised together; and so the Church is inclusive in this way." And also, "And perhaps the hardest part is that loving one another doesn’t just mean loving those who are easy to love." My own mama used to tell me that when folks were behaving their very worst was when they needed our love the most. Praise God for life and love.


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