Sunday, July 26, 2009

Our Grandson's Baptism!

This is a bit special!

Leading a baptism service for your own grandson!

That really is special.

First it was the Saga magazine. Then it was noticing that Age Concern and Help the Aged do special events for the over 50’s! I always used to think they were good titles for those organisations. I’m having second thoughts!

And now a baptism service for your grandson.

I think there’s something special about family … and continuity in the family. There’s a chain of links from one generation to the next – Felicity has been very much into family history, a cousin emailed only this week to say she had added us into her family tree. There is something very special about what is passed on from one generation to the next.

So I have a reading from a part of the Bible that has become very special to me. My father preached from Paul’s letter to Timothy at my ordination – as it were passing something special on that he had received from his father and grandfather before him, I then drew on the same letter when it came to Dave’s baptism. From my father to son, from father to son, and now from grandfather to grandson. After all, Paul addresses his letter to ‘my dear son’.

When my eye turned to this passage again, however, I was delighted to see that grandparents come in for some praise too. Though actually it’s mother and grandmother who come in for Paul’s praise. See if you can spot the names of the Timothy’s mother and grandmother too.

From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God's will, sent to proclaim the promised life which we have in union with Christ Jesus —

2 To Timothy, my dear son:

May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy, and peace.

3 I give thanks to God, whom I serve with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did. I thank him as I remember you always in my prayers night and day. 4 I remember your tears, and I want to see you very much, so that I may be filled with joy. 5 I remember the sincere faith you have, the kind of faith that your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice also had. I am sure that you have it also.

6 For this reason I remind you to keep alive the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you. 7 For the Spirit that God has given us does not make us timid; instead, his Spirit fills us with power, love, and self-control.

Your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice had a very special part to play in Timothy’s life.

Since Easter we have been exploring a theme of service, looking at ways we can serve each other and serve God through the church and in the wider world. Becky came across a video clip that celebrates motherhood. I found it moving, not least because of the way it brings together powerful music, and thought-provoking words. Indeed the piece of music is one I associate very much with my own childhood, and others of a certain age will find it brings back fond memories too. It’s the kind of music to pass on from one generation to the next.

YouTube video clip on being a mother

I guess motherhood … parenthood … is one of those things that you can’t do on your own – you need help. One of the things that happens in a baptism service is an acknowledgement of the help that is available from friends, from family, from church family too.

But a baptism service is about much more than the help that other people can give. At the heart of our baptism service is a celebration of the gift God gives to us of his love for us and of his presence with each one of us.

That gives us a strength from beyond ourselves that we can draw on when we feel overwhelmed by all the demands laid on us.

We can tap into that source of strengthening from God through the faith we have in God.

That’s what Paul recognised:

I remember the sincere faith you have, the kind of faith that your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice also had. I am sure that you have it also.

6 For this reason I remind you to keep alive the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you. 7 For the Spirit that God has given us does not make us timid; instead, his Spirit fills us with power, love, and self-control.

In a baptism service we also celebrate the wonderful thought that we belong not just to our own family … but also to a church family. The church family we belong to includes Lois, Eunice and Timothy – our celebration today is a celebration that Lake is part of that church family that goes right back to Timothy and to Eunice and to Lois as well, right back to Jesus.

Think how many people come between those three and Lake – so many!

And yet it is not quite so many as you might think!

The oldest person in our church family is Margaret Saunders – next month she will be 104! She’s thinking of us today! At Margaret’s baptism it is just conceivable there could have been someone that old around then as well … that’s just 20 people between Lake and Timothy, Eunice and Lois!

Thinking of that link between Lake and Timothy, his mother and his grandmother, I asked some of those in our church family who are around the hundred mark what their hopes and prayers would be for Lake and for all the little ones in our church family now.

Alice Brown was 12 years old when a friend called Nelly invited her along to Highbury. That was 1925, seven years before the church moved to this site. It wasn’t long before she was walking from Charlton Kings to our Winchcombe Street building for church in the Morning, to Grosvenor Street for Sunday School in the afternoon, and back to church in the evening as well.

When she left home as a teacher she moved away from the church to return when her sister died about eight years ago.

Think how much that generation have been through in the last century.

“I don’t know what I would do without a faith – a faith that there is a God who is there to help!”

That’s the first of Paul’s comments – God’s Spirit fills us with power, strength from beyond ourselves – the help we need to see is through. Alice spoke movingly of the help her faith has been to her … and still is.

Recently, at the age of 96, Alice has started to teach an aerobics class at Lilian Faithful House, the care home, where she now lives. She was disappointed at having only 8 people turn up. The manager, came over to her one day to remind her – you’ll have to remember how old they are!” she said.

“Well, bless my soul,” Alice said, “none of them is as old as I am!”

God’s Spirit fills us with power and with love …

Alice has had a passion for helping people – when she came to worship with us regularly on Sunday mornings each month she would be away one Sunday – and she was in her late 80’s then because she was helping to make cooked breakfasts at Cheltenham Open Door, supporting people who are homeless, or in need of support.

What did she wish for Lake?

“That his life be a peaceful life … not harassed by worries.

“That he should try to be helpful and friendly to other people – not to get enemies – to keep friends with people.

“That we should all try to do the right thing, try to keep on the right path and not do wrong things.

“Most important to keep friends with other people, to help as much as you can, to keep good relationsh9ips with people.”

God’s Spirit fills us with power and love …

That thought was echoed by Ivy Saddler – whose husband died after nearly 70 years of marriage earlier this year, and who lives in a house called Hoe Met because they met on Plymouth Hoe.

She would pray for the little ones in her family, in our church family and specifically for Lake “A peaceful world, we want peace.”

And then she offered a verse giving a very practical guideline about the kind of love we should show to each other …

“Don’t look at the flaws as you go through life

Not even if you find them

It is wise and kind

To be somewhat blind

And look for the virtues behind them.”

God’s Spirit fills us with power, love.

It is intriguing that that was important to Paul as he thought of Timothy, Eunice and Lois.

Margaret Saunders was 9 when the first world war started. She had vivid memories of the first world war and of the second world war too. And like the others I was speaking to, a peaceful world was uppermost in her mind.

What is your hope for the little ones in your family, and in the church family? Was the question I put to Margaret.

“A peaceful world. No more wars, no more air raid sirens and raids that a lot of us went through.”

But Margaret did not leave it there. After pausing a moment, she went on with a further thought.

“Now does that mean, a less selfish world, a world where people think more of others and less of themselves?”

Maybe that’s the key to living that life of love that Paul spoke of?

Then it was that Margaret began to speak of the need for discipline, the value of rules and regulations, the importance of a moral code, the importance of making promises and keeping promises.

That too seemed to be an echo of Paul’s thoughts as well.

God’s spirit fills us with power, love and self-control.

“Rules of behaviour,” Margaret commented, “are actually for the benefit of everyone.”

There is so much to give thanks for as we share together family and friends, and church family in this celebration of Lake’s baptism.

The Spirit that God has given us does not make us timid; instead his Spirit fills us with power, love and self-control.

How can we keep to that – for Ivy the day is framed at the start and the finish by prayer …

This is the day which the Lord has made

And we will rejoice and be glad in it

For thou has given to me

The gift of a new day

Help me to accept it with a thankful heart

And to use it trustfully for Jesus’ sake


Now that the day is over

And the coming and going is ended

Grant to us a quiet night

And in the hours of darkness

Restore us in body, mind and spirit.

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