- The Revd Canon Camellia Flanagan, TSSF
221009 Pentecost 18C Baptism. Luke 17: 11-19
+ in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit Amen.
Our prayer book is full of pictures. But when you look you can’t see any. The pictures are in the words, so you can see the pictures with your ears! And in your mind’s eye. The Baptism service begins on page 50 of the prayer book and the service booklets you have today are a copy of the service in the Prayer Book. So, as we go through the service, we can see the pictures. On page 3 of our booklets When Jesus rose from the Dead and before he ascended into heaven, he gave his disciples jobs to do. We understand that Jesus overcame death so we could have a personal friend which is his Holy Spirit to guide us. So, this morning we are Baptising Margo just as Jesus has told us to do. But before we do, when we come before our great almighty God, we realise our faults and come seeking forgiveness knowing we are loved and forgiven. Page 3 We confess our sins and are assured of God’s forgiveness then we say the hymn page 4 Glory to God in the Highest. This hymn tells us who God is, what he has done, and we worship and praise him. We then pray the prayer for the seasonal day. This prayer is called a collect. Collects are a special type of formal prayer . We formally address God, we ask for what we would like to have through the agency of the Trinity, Father Son and Spirit and finish with Amen.
Next are the bible readings from the Old Testament, the Psalm and New Testament. This is followed by the Gospel. A reading from one of the 4 gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Then is the sermon which is what I am saying now.
We usually think about the readings and carry their message with us through the next week. In today’s gospel there were ten people with leprosy who were given God’s healing grace but only one returned to thank him and he was a foreigner. God’s healing is available to everyone. It is possible to receive God’s great gifts with an ungrateful spirit, nine of the ten men did so. Only the thankful man learned that his faith had played a role in his healing and only grateful Christians grow in understanding God’s grace. God does not demand that we thank him, but he is pleased when we do so. And God uses our responsiveness to teach us more about himself. The sermon finished we go back to the Baptism service.
Sponsors or God Parents then present their God Child and make promises on behalf of their God Child.
In Baptism we talk about being buried with Christ, in other words our old self is dead and we rise to new life. Think of it this way. We are in the water, under the water, drowning, out of breath. We come up out of the water taking a great new breath to reclaim our life with all the wonderful possibilities of the future before us. Baptism is entry into a new covenant with God and God’s people. It is a gift of God and is given in the name of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is part of the decision taken on behalf of the God Child to turn to Christ.
The actual Baptism (p 8) continues the story. This is a story in word pictures of salvation and creation because creation continues every day for all of us. We are constantly changing, growing and learning to live closer to God. We are reminded that God’s Spirit moved upon the waters during the creation and separated the waters and darkness and light. We remember the stories of the Old Testament, how God led the people through the Red Sea away from Egypt and slavery to freedom. We remember that Jesus was Baptised in the Jordan River and the people saw the Holy Spirit come on him as a dove would fly and God recognised him as his loved son. We remember Jesus’s death and resurrection and give thanks for the Holy Spirit of Jesus in our own hearts and minds who guides us in the right way and helps us in all we do. We then declare our faith.(p 9) Then we are Baptised with water – our sins are washed away, but there is much more. Water is poured three times, so we are Baptised in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and are given instructions for how to live and then welcomed into the community of believers and sent out into the world. Here we trust our Godparents or sponsors to help us to learn to recognise the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our lives and when we are ready and old enough, we make our formal confirmation to become a full member of the community of faith.
The service continues with more word pictures in the Drama of the Holy Communion sometimes called the Eucharist with the Great Thanksgiving (11) We can become part of the drama around the table at the supper of Jesus with his disciples. We have the story in pictures of Jesus coming into the world in the flesh, his birth, death, and resurrection. We imagine that we are at the table with the disciples, and he is taking the loaf of bread and giving us pieces of the broken bread. If we enter into the words, music, and the spiritual sharing of Christ’s body and blood we will be drawn into the centre of life in Christ.
If we deeply involve ourselves in what is happening, we will be touched and we will go out afterward in some way different than the way we came. In the Eucharist there is a flow of energy of God’s Holy Spirit that we can be part of. All of us can be part of this Baptism is only the beginning of the story and once we are baptised and begin to learn about Jesus, we will be ready to fully take our place at the Lord’s table, be confirmed and be a full member of the community of faith. None of us would want to miss out on this. During the Holy Communion God reaches towards us and we realise that our joys and sorrows are part of a much larger picture that not we, but a God of love and power, creator and healer is the real centre of the universe.
We offer ourselves to God, who we are and what we have, our self, our money, bread and wine. If we allow all who we are to go to the altar. Christ will take it and gather it into the love that flows between Him and God the Father. Christ feeds us spiritually with his life. And we are given life giving healing, wisdom for understanding, compassion for God’s world, strength to move on, and deep joy at this love that encompasses all of us. If we have brought our real selves to the altar, we will leave it in some way different, perhaps in ways we cannot fully see – something confirmed, something released, something deepened. God’s immense love has sought us and found us ,and we will begin to become who God intended us to be. I invite you all to put your books down and watch and become part of the Drama. The Priest is doing the actions, but Christ is present in all of it, in every molecule and the air we breathe. Christ is reaching out to you and inviting you into the energy of his love.