Acts 2:41-47; Mt 28:16-20
4th Sunday after Trinity – Baptism
St Barbara’s 28.06.15
Today is a wonderful day as we have welcomed three children into the family of the church.
Its also a day when we have made promises to help them to grow up to know God’s love, to help nurture them so that they will make good choices.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes as a parent, there are days when I wish I could just enforce what my children did. When I could decide what was best for them, and they would just do it.
That just occasionally my word was law. That whatever I said would be instantaneously and completely obeyed without question.
“Sit still… don’t touch… don’t put that crayon up your nose… don’t wind up your brother, or your sister… and don’t roll your eyes at me”
Instead, when I’m fortunate, I get the response “Whhhyyy?”
When I’m less fortunate, when they were younger, they just used to look at me with wide innocent eyes, and then just go ahead with it anyway, crawling towards that plug or hot oven. Now, they just roll their eyes and pretend they didn’t hear me.
In Jesus’ day, kings and emperors had no such problems. They ruled by diktat. Whatever they said was law. And woe betide anyone who even questioned, let alone disobeyed, them.
So when Jesus started proclaiming that God’s kingdom had come, that he, Jesus, was the new leader of God’s people, people wondered whether he would wield authority in a similar way? Enforce obedience to his will through divine thunderbolts from heaven. Terrify people into submission. After all, he was the Son of God. He could do that.
But Jesus chose a different way. Not thunderbolts and terror, but love and persuasion. Not demands and threats of reprisals, but kindness and compassion, mercy and grace. Moved by the sheer inspiration of his life among them, people followed him of their own free will. No compulsion; just a wonderful invitation to live and love like him.
Which brings us back to baptism. In baptism we become full members of the Church, the body of Christ. Our membership, our place in the family, is not dependent on anything else. Today, through their baptisms, three children have become a fully part of the family of God. Not partial or secondary citizens, affiliates still awaiting to be given full membership status, not junior members awaiting a certain age when they will graduate. No today they become a full part of the family of God.
As part of the family, we want them to know all the goodness, all the joy, all the hope, that comes from being part of God’s family.
But we can’t force them. We can’t make them. (Its a lesson any parent comes to learn).
But, like with Jesus, we can inspire, we can live such lives of love and faith ourselves, that it becomes a natural choice for our children too.
Imagine being part of a family, a community, a church, where daily our children are experiencing love, witnessing compassion for others, participating in the joy of celebrating God’s goodness, learning more about God alongside one another, learning to stand up for justice and right, to speak up for the voiceless, to befriend the lonely. A community where we can be honest about our failings, where we can forgive one another, and where we can believe that change is possible.
What a place for our children to grow up in. What a place for us to be part of.
The church in Jerusalem that we heard read about was like that. And daily, more and more people wanted to be part of them, inspired by their love.
That is the kind of community we should want to be, a community that inspires faith and love in young and old alike. Parents and godparents and all of us who have some responsibility for children, we should want to be people whose lives are so filled with the love of Christ that being part of the family of God will be the most inspiring and natural thing they will want to do in their lives.
As parents, as godparents, as church, we cannot force it, we cannot compel it, but we can help to inspire it.
And one final thought. Over the last four weeks we have been thinking in particular about communion, the family meal of the church. That was another thing that marked the early church community – they met regularly, often daily, to break bread together, to share communion.
One of the ways we fully experience being part of a family is through sharing in meals together. I remember a few years ago knowing two families on my street. One set of parents insisted that the children never ate with them. They were much too noisy and messy, and the parents didn’t like the food the children would eat. The other parents delighted in their children eating with them. Whenever the house was full of guests, which it frequently was, their children would join in. Yes, they sometimes dropped food, spilt their drinks or shouted out too loud when joining in conversations, but their children learnt something fundamentally important – they were part of the family, they were valued and loved.
Our children through baptism are part of the family of God. Maybe over the coming months through our time of prayer and discussion we will come to that point at St Barbara’s where we decide to include them too in the family meal.
So lets together create the community, the family, that will make for these three children, indeed for all of us, following Christ the most natural choice in the world.