Where have I been all week?
Trying to catch up after the holiday, in short - plus we had a (lovely!) wedding yesterday.
As it's a baptism again this week and I'm responding to a request to relate the sermon more directly to life questions and not always start from the Bible the 'sermon' is actually 3 short reflections.
So here they are:
We might wonder what we are doing in church today.
We have come to worship God;
We have come for Tracy & for Hayden’s baptism;
Perhaps we’ve come for a bit of peace and quiet in an otherwise hectic life.
We each have our own difficulties or problems, things in our lives we might want to say sorry for, or things for which we want to give thanks.
Here we all are, gathered in this place, where for hundreds of years people have come to be reminded of the presence of God.
Later we will have demonstrations of God’s love for us, shown in the water of baptism and the bread & wine of communion.
But first we are going to hear from God’s word, the Bible.
The first reading from Jeremiah will remind us of how we can always turn back to God. Jeremiah has become a word for a gloomy guts: he starts out complaining that his life isn’t going as he wants it to – although Jeremiah has tried to be good his life is full of pain. God’s answer to him is that he, God, is there and Jeremiah needs to turn and see that: Jeremiah needs to learn to trust God.
The second reading, from the letter of Paul to the church in Rome, gives advice for how people who trust God should live – loving, hoping and giving generously.
Let’s hear those readings now:
Jeremiah 15: 15-21: Romans 12: 9-21
Throughout this baptismal service we will keep talking about following Jesus Christ and being part of his church. You might wonder what following Jesus really means: obviously it was one thing for the fishermen that Jesus actually met and talked to and said ‘follow me’ – and it means something slightly different for us today.
First, like Jeremiah, we need to learn to trust God and believe God is with us: not just when life is good and easy, but when things are difficult, too.
Secondly, being one of Christ’s followers means changing the way we live – being forgiving to others, sharing what we have with those who don’t have enough, showing hospitality – and doing all this as people who are full of love, hope and joy.
But you might be wondering what can make us trust God’s love in the first place – what evidence have we got that God actually loves us? The best sign that God loves us comes to us in Jesus. In Jesus Christ, God became a human being like one of us. To show us the true extent of God’s amazing love Jesus came prepared to suffer and die on the cross. This was hard for his first followers to understand, as we learn in Matthew’s gospel – which we’ll hear now:
Matthew 16: 21-28
God, in Jesus, puts each one of us before his own needs – he loves us so much that he’d die rather than give up on us, and his love for us so great that even death can’t extinguish it.
And Jesus tells his followers that we have to do the same as he does – to be prepared to put other people first, to ask ourselves what God wants us to do with our lives, not just to go after what we want.
So in baptism, Hayden & Tracy will be accepting God’s love – a free gift of grace which has been there for them since the day they were born.
We, too , can remember that we are God’s special children – each one of us.
And then, in the bread and wine of communion we will remember Jesus’ gift of his life given up for us –
his body broken and his blood poured out as the greatest sign of all of the greatness of God’s love.
Everyone is welcome to share in the symbolic meal as together we remember Jesus and promise to become part of his life in the world today. Strengthened by God’s love we can go out to be God’s people in the world, following Jesus Christ and putting others first.
So may God touch each one of us this morning, in the name of Jesus. Amen