Preparing for Baptism

22 November 2009

Next Sunday we have a wonderful celebration that will be taking place
as we join with 9 people in the congregation who will be being baptised
or re-affirming their baptism from when they were an infant.
We have people right across the ages,
and drawn from each of our worshipping congregations –
it is not just an event for “the young people”
In my 12 years here this will be the largest single service of baptisms
and as a congregation we are investing much time and energy

The reason we are investing so much time and energy
is that baptism is both a significant event for the individuals involved
but also for us as a community of faith
and it gives us the opportunity – in fact it demands of us –
that we reflect on who we are as a community, and how we live.

Today is the Sunday set aside to celebrate the Reign of Christ
which also requires of us that we reflect on how we are living within that reign.

In one real sense the meaning of baptism hasn’t changed for thousands of years:
it is a celebration of God’s grace and marking our dedication to the way of Christ.
In another very real sense, it is now quite different from the way it has been perceived
for much of the last 2000 years, and requires of us that we re-think.

For ages, baptism has been a sign of joining the ‘central’ part of society,
and a way of identifying ourselves as “not them” (whoever the them is at the time).
In fact the “creeds” of the church were specifically created to be able to separate.
They were a tool of power and control
and baptism was a way of identifying with the powerful.

Somehow, baptisms have become mysterious –
not so much that they point to the mystery of God, but unfortunately
too much that no one outside the church has the faintest idea what is going on
And somehow they have become at times ways of ensuring that the church continues –
we associate baptism or confirmation with “membership”
and then we can end up justifying our existence by our numbers.

But as Jesus once said “But that is not to be the way it is among you.”

For us, each and every baptism, each and every reaffirmation of baptism
is to serve as a reminder that we are called to live in the world as Christ’s body.
As God sent Jesus, so Jesus sends us.

Jesus mission – or his purpose – was to embody was God’s love looked like
and to ensure that people could experience the love and the value of God’s reign.
The mission – or the purpose – of the body of Christ now is
to embody what God’s love looks like, and ensuring that people can experience
the love and the value of God’s reign

And during the baptism next week, we are asked how it is that we as a community
will help continue the nurture people –
the people being baptised, and all of us as we grow in our faith –  
and help them to grow in the love and grace of God.
We have to work out how we will be responding.
As people search for a meaning and place to belong,
     how will we provide guide marks on the seach
As people are alienated from themselves, each other and God,
     how will we offer reconciliation?
As people are caught in the pace of life and the push to individualism
     how will we nourish the movement to community living?
As institutions – including the church – clamour and struggle for survival
     how will we embody the understanding that resurrection is only discovered in death

In just a few minutes, Steve will lead us in a time
where we will be doing some of our preparation for next week’s service.
We will be preparing our congregation’s response to the question
of how we will nourish and nurture people faith and experience of God’s grace
in our community, in our century and in our setting.

This is not a response to be taken lightly or selfishly,
but responsibly and in the love of God.

As we think and speak with each other today
and as we continue to live it out
let us be reminded again of the words of Jesus:
“As the Father sent me, now I send you”

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