Saturday, 3 September 2011

The gift of baptism

Yes, I'm cheating: having not preached last week I'm using last week's lectionary readings as they fitted so well with the baptism that I'm conducting. Thought that after holidays I could be allowed to cut myself some slack!I also shortened them slightly for the sake of the 2 grandfathers who are reading them and the congregation, most of whom will be the 'baptism party'.

Sermon notes for Sept 4th (baptism)
Romans 12:9-13
Matthew 16:21-26

I was delighted to hear the first reading – the one from Paul’s letter to the Romans this morning, especially at Harry’s baptism.

Here’s the Bible my Godparents gave me the day I was baptised – aged just under 3 months. You can see that like it’s owner it’s showing signs of wear & tear!
And here inside my Godmother, Marjorie, wrote (verses from Romans ch 12).

It might seem an odd present for a tiny baby: I remember as a child being a bit jealous of my brother – who had a silver egg cup and spoon as a Baptism present, and would use it whenever we had eggs for breakfast! But as I’ve grown, I have treasured this Bible and especially those words from Romans. I feel it’s a present I’ve grown into, rather like baptism itself.

Harry is enjoying himself today, I hope, but I doubt he really understands much of what’s happening and we won’t expect him, young as he is, to remember today. But he will have his baptism certificate and candle, along with any other presents from today, so that he will know that he has been baptised. This means that whenever he wants it or needs it, the church will be here for him – many different denominations, throughout the world – Harry will be part of the worldwide family of God.

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.

In part, 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. These are the things that the letter to the Romans talks about.

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 heard in Matthew’s gospel.

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, Harry will be accepting God’s love – a free gift of grace which has been there for him since the day he was 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

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