Sunday, November 3, 2013

Presence, Promise and Prayer - a Celebration of Baptism

During this morning's service we shared in the sacrament of baptism as Ian and Carlie brought Isobel to be baptised.  We also received the Operation Christmaschild shoe boxes.

It’s amazing how many things you can get in a shoe box!

It’s humbling how much excitement comes to so many simply in a shoe box.

It’s wonderful that there so much more in the box than simply the things we have put there.

So many things.

So much excitement

So much more in the box.

It’s been great to share again baptism with Ian and Carlie, remembering the wedding that seems but yesterday and yet is, I think as many as 8 years ago … and remembering Mackenzie’s baptism and Jayden’s baptism.  And now Isabel.

It’s funny to find ourselves thinking about Christmas today as we receive the shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child and send them on their way towards Christmas.

I suspect that the presents for each one of those little ones wouldn’t quite fit in a shoe box.

Makes you think, though, about what’s important in the presents we give.

I have a feeling there’s so much more in the box than we can see with our eyes.  I have a feeling there’s so much more we can give our youngsters than we could put into the most enormous of parcels!

So, let’s think about the things you cannot see, about the things that are so much more important than the things you wrap with the finest wrapping paper!

Between now and Christmas we are going to be sharing in a wedding with Lindsey and Dean.

In the wedding service you shared and in the wedding service we’ll  share in a month’s time there’s a comment I make about children in marriage.

It’s not so much that the purpose of marriage is to have children.  I don’t accept that and haven’t included those words in the marriage service I take.  That’s something passed on to me by my father.  Things hadn’t worked out for them until I came along very late.  My father always used to maintain that a marriage is complete whether or not there are children.

So in the marriage service we shared I shared the words marriage is the setting where children who are also God’s gifts can enjoy the security of love and the heritage of faith.

There’s a sense that when you come to share in a baptism you are taking an opportunity to extend the promises you made to each other at your wedding to the little ones who have joined your family.

The first thing that’s precious that you cannot see in a shoe box or in the largest of parcels is a Promise.

The promise you made to each other, the promises you made to your youngsters – these are precious promises and they are promises to keep.

But there’s another set of promises we celebrate today in our baptism service.  They are not the promises you make to each other, or the promises you make for  your children.

They are the promises we remember from Jesus.

Jesus was one who made lots of promises – and the thing about Jesus is that he keeps those promises.

Come to me all you who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest, is one of my favourite promises from Jesus.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you, not as the world give I to you … let not your hearts be troubled neither let them be afraid.

But most precious of all those promises is one Jesus left with his disciples shortly before he died.

He said,  “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, another Comforter, a Strength alongside you who will stay with you forever.”

That’s a wonderful promise.   That we will not be alone.  There is a strength alongside us, deep within us at precisely those moments when we feel at our wit’s end.  When we cannot keep going.  Yet we can keep going.  For there is an unseen, yet very real strength in the presence of the Holy Spirit – that unseen, yet very real power from God that’s around us, alongside us, beneath us, deep within our hearts.

I have a lovely quote on my wall that says,

Lord, help me to remember that nothing is going to happen to me today that you and I together can’t handle.

I love that thought.

And it brings me to the second of those things that are so precious.

A promise, and a presence.

When it comes to parenting ‘Presence’ is all important.  What our children want from us is not the most wonderful things in the world – what they want from us is our time, our presence.  And that’s what makes all the difference in their lives.

Your presence is far more precious than your presence!

But there’s another presence we celebrate in baptism today.  It’s the presence we celebrated in your wedding.

That’s the wonderful thing we celebrated in your wedding – and will do again shortly.  It’s not just a partnership between the two of you.  There’s another presence with you in the partnership you share.

Just as Jesus was present at a wedding in Cana of Galilee in all his power and his love, so he is present with us here today, were words I shared in the wedding … and will do again.

There’s a wonderful sense that come what may, Jesus is present with us in all his love, in all his kindness, in all his forgiveness, with all his guidance, in all his power and his strength.

For Jesus said in the last words he left with his friends,

I will be with you always.

It is that presence of Christ with us we celebrate in the sacrament of baptism a presence for Isabel and a presence for your family for you together for each of you in your needs together.

That’s special.

And there’s one thing more.

When a little one arrives and family and friends get together and our church family comes together as well we have all sorts of prayers for the future ahead.

A promise, a presence, a prayer.

I wonder what your prayers are for Isabel, I wonder what our prayers are for those we love, for ourselves.

Prayer is a wonderful thing.

It’s so simple that anyone can pray.

And yet prayer is so profound that we always stand in need of prayer and we can never plumb its depths.

There is a prayer that Jesus offers us all. It’s a prayer to teach to our children.  It’s a prayer for each of us to take to heart.  I very much hope these are words you know, these are words to teach to your children.

You can think of it as the Prayer of the Kingdom – it’s all about the rule of God breaking into our world and into our hearts.

You can think of it as the Lord’s Prayer –for it is the prayer Jesus taught his disciples, it’s the prayer that says everything about our Christian faith.

It’s also known as the Family Prayer.  And today I think that’s something special.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

God is awesome …  but also so close he loves us as Father deep in our hearts.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

What God’s rule entails is simple – love for God, love for neighbour – do to others what you would have others do to you.  If that’s what God’s rule is in God’s presence – then that’s what God wants for us on earth – in every location.  Don’t just think ‘on earth’.  But on earth, here in this spot, where I am in my life – your will be done, your rule be in my heart.

And give us this day our daily bread – just what we need for this day.

But forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.   When we do what’s wrong, say what’s wrong, think what’s wrong – forgive us – but help us to forgive others too.  The power of forgiveness is so potent.

And lead us not into temptation – how important we don’t go down that path

And deliver us from evil –

For thine is the kingdom the power and the glory
Forever and ever Amen.

A wonderful sense of the presence of God with us.

So many things,
So much excitement
So much more in the box
A promise
A presence
A prayer

And be surprised at
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
The Love of God and

The Fellowship of the Holy  Spirit.

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