Sunday 10th

SERMON 1

 

9:45am Holy Communion   Epiphany 1 / Baptism of Christ   Preacher- Rev Cliff Latimer

Acts 8:14-17 

Luke 3:15-22

Opening Prayer.

 

 

Dorothy and I are very fortunate in that all of our Grandchildren live close by and we see most of them every week.

On Thursdays our eldest Grandson and our young Granddaughter spend a few hours together before their parents come to take them home. The favourite game is “Hide and Seek”.

Alana hides first, and being only two this is always behind the curtains in the dining room. Ethan stretches out the search as long as her can, and then it’s Ethan’s turn to hide.

Alana stands in the lounge and slowly counts up to ten, and then in a loud voice announces

“Coming, ready or not”.

And the hunt is on.

When Mary went to see Elizabeth during their pregnancy, John leapt in his mother’s womb when his cousin Jesus was close by.

Maybe after they were born the boys had chance to play together. We don’t know, but we do know that as they grew older they went own ways

At the age of twelve Jesus managed to get himself lost during the family visit to Jerusalem for the Passover. Luke tells us the he was eventually found at the Temple debating with the scribes and Pharisees.

His calling to service was obviously known to him as he looked puzzled at his parents faces; announcing that he was easily to be found “in his Father’s House”.

Life for the two boys continued, each going their own way for the work ahead.

The next we hear of John is when he appears in the wilderness, declaring that it is time for the sinful to repent. He demands that the penitent be baptised – cleansed from sin, and reborn into a new life. The Messiah is coming and the sinful will be cast to the wind.

Thousands flock to John for this fresh start, in a right which is normally used for the Gentiles coming to the Jewish Faith.

Bathing and listening as the Tora is read. That’s what the Large Jars of Water were meant for at the Wedding at Cana

Jesus too hears the call from John, the call to complete his destiny. And he knows that it is time to leave his family home in Nazareth, and begin the life that had been ordained for him since birth.

He came to John, not really for the Baptism of Repentance, but to be recognised through his Baptism as the Messiah, promised by the Prophets of Old.

As he ascends from the water he is acknowledged by God as his Son, and declared to be the promised Messiah.

At the end of his life on Earth, In Matthews Gospel, Jesus tells the gathered disciples to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.

In Today’s reading from Acts of the Apostles, the initial candidates for Baptism needed to be visited by the disciples who had received the Holy Spirit, to complete the transition into the family of God.

The Baptism by other Christians although valid was not complete, and the Disciples needed to be summoned to complete the process. Just as the child needs to be presented to the priest after an Emergency Baptism has taken place.

The Power of the Holy Spirit rested upon the Disciples at Pentecost, and gave them fresh powers to undertake the Work of God that Jesus had instructed them at the end of Matthew’s Gospel.

At our Ordinations the Bishop called on Holy Spirit to rest upon us.

I don’t know how Lynn felt, but I remember that Bishop Keith who was normally kind and gentle, rested on my head with heavy hands that seemed to press my neck between my shoulder blades.

No doubt to ensure that the Holy Spirit truly reached its target.

Following our Ordinations one of our tasks is to channel the Holy Spirit where it is needed.

The name Priest, in Latin is Pontifex; literally a Bridge Builder

We Channel God to people, and people to God

In my time I have baptised hundreds of babies, but I have never heard voices

But have seen the Holy Spirit at work –

Time and time again I have seen Families responding to the presence of the Holy Spirit at the baptism.

For those who are open to the Holy Spirit, they respond, return to worship with the church community, and grow in love and fellowship.

When away on Holiday, Dorothy and I like to visit the local churches and chapels. And we’ve enjoyed visits to places of worship in Greece, Spain and France.

There’s nothing better than to Sit and feel the atmosphere – sometimes cold and lifeless, in other places, it’s warm and embracing.

A mystery – why the difference when these places look so similar.

A few years ago, when In Brittany on holiday we picked up a leaflet about the Monastery de Notre Dame at Langonnet. The Monks there train as African Missionaries, and return there after their period of duty.

We were welcomed at the door, and then shown around Museum of African Artifacts

After that we were allowed to roam freely – Firstly to the Chapel. It was very ornate, quite beautiful, but Spiritually Cold

Then we found the prayer room in the Crypt just off the central Cloister.

The Chairs were in a circle, centred around the lectern with an open Bible placed upon it. The Bible was turned to the Book of Genesis, to the story of Noah.

Here was obviously a Place of prayer, a place to share brotherly love. It felt comfortable, a place to rest a while and enjoy the moment.  It was Spiritually Warm

Is this what distinguishes places of worship?

Some are cold – others warm and welcoming.

We knew in that Crypt that this is where the Holy Spirit was at work,

This was where the monks come to find that close relationship with God through the Holy Spirit, as they join together in worship and prayer, singing chants and listening the God’s Holy Word.

When questioned, Jesus told the Lawyer that there are two important commandments

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength

Love your neighbour as yourself.

Here at Gentleshaw – we find a church that is both warm and inviting.  –  even when we are the first here and the pews are still empty

Here we come to Meet in his Name – sharing the love of God with each other as we hear his word and sing his praises.

The Holy Spirit of Baptism needs to be nurtured

It needs to be amongst those who love God and each other; so that it may grow amongst us.

That’s how the Holy Spirit grows in each of us, not by sitting on our own, in our own space, but by gathering here to worship our lord Jesus as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

So don’t stay away

Don’t put off coming to worship until a better time

By acknowledging the call of the Spirit to each of us

Even in the busiest times of our lives

When the pressures are on and we can find no time for anything else, remember:-

The Holy Spirit is waiting for you here,

Keep this place warm and welcoming.

Then just listen to the call of the Holy Spirit and respond;

Do you here the call:-      Come – Ready or Not.

Amen

 

SERMON 2

 

6.30pm Evening Prayer           Epiphany 1/Baptism of Christ          Preacher – Rev Lynn McKeon

Romans: 6: 1-11

Mark 1: 4-11

 

Today we're going to look at an event that made it into all four Gospels - every author of every gospel found this event so inspiring and important that it was included. It narrates the inauguration of Jesus into ministry. It was His coming out party - His grand opening, so to speak. And, it begins the launch sequence of Jesus toward His eventual crucifixion. That makes it really powerful to think about.

It's an unusual story because, depending on what you think about baptism, there doesn't seem to be any reason for Jesus to be baptized. There's a little confusion about baptism. Some people think it's the event that makes one a Christian. Baptism isn't where you find Jesus; it's what you do once you've found him. But that doesn't answer the question, "Why would Jesus seek to be baptized by John?" I think it's important that we realize John didn't just come up with this baptism idea on his own.

We have two key players here: Jesus and his cousin, John the Baptist. John's ministry was to prepare the way for the Messiah. His message was simple and straight forward: "Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near"   When people repented, he baptized them. The Jewish people were looking for a deliverer to make things right in their country. They were a people whose land was occupied by an oppressive foreign government, and they longed for freedom. But it was more than that. It was a people whose relationship with God had grown cold.

God had chosen their forefather Abraham to be the patriarch of His people hundreds of years before. Like many relationships, it started out strongly but through the years complacency set in. Familiarity breeds contempt, they say. Israel started taking God for granted, and God won't tolerate that for long in a relationship with us.

A brief history of God's relationship with Israel: God blesses and Israel enjoys, Israel be-comes complacent, takes God for granted and turns her back on Him. God gets Israel's attention through tragedy. The Israelites repent and relationship is restored. And then the cycle begins anew. John the Baptist comes along during a down cycle of Israel's relation-ship with God. They had become complacent, taken God for granted and turned their backs on Him, and God had allowed them to experience discomfort in order to get their attention.

And because God had always provided a deliverer in the past, people like Moses and David, there was great anticipating for the next manifestation of a deliverer. John, as the preparer of the way, says what has to be said, "Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!" It makes perfect sense, doesn't it?  The people had to turn their hearts back to God in order to experience deliverance. This occupation by a foreign conqueror is the method God is using to get their attention. And John uniquely adapts a common practice of his day to teach his people about humility, commitment and identification.

Judaism was very popular during the times when God was blessing. Other nations and other people took note. They wanted their piece of the blessing pie so, occasionally, Gentiles petitioned to become Jews. It's just human nature - most of us want to identify with a winner. It's like when a sports team does really well, it's amazing how many people start wearing their gear.

The Gentiles who wanted to become Jews were called proselytes. In the simplest sense, that means convert. In our context, a proselyte is a Gentile becoming a Jew. For a Gentile to become a fully- fledged Jew (and any Gentile could do this) there was a three-step process that had to be completed.

The first was to offer a sacrifice. A heifer or a pair of turtledoves was brought to the priest and given as a burnt offering to God. Obviously there was an expense involved and the lifeblood of the animal was spilled. It's all sort of gruesome really. The next was circumcision, the cutting away of a piece of flesh from a man's body. For a Jewish boy, this was done when he was 8 days old, thus the pain wasn't remembered. But an adult male, who wanted to become a Jewish proselyte, had to undergo this procedure, regardless of his age. I would think this would've prevented anyone from jumping into this without a great deal of thoughtful consideration.

Circumcision was unique to the Jewish people. It was their distinguishing, permanent, irreversible, identifying mark on their body that designated them as the only people on earth who were in covenant relationship with God. Finally, after the circumcision wound had healed, the proselyte went through the final step of baptism. The person stripped off all of his clothes. (We don't do that here by the way.) He then went into the water naked, and dipped himself under water making sure to fully immerse his entire body, being careful that not one bit of flesh remained dry.

When males were baptized, the priest was present. When females were baptized, they were only attended by other females; no rabbis were present. Can you imagine the level of humility that would take? Becoming a Jew wasn't a walk in the park - it was something one did with exceptional contemplation.

Once this process had been completed, the proselyte was now considered a Jew in every way. He had fully renounced his previous life, his previous nationality, his previous allegiances; he or she was fully Jewish physically and spiritually. His identity completely changed.

This wasn't just an "add on" to your life. You didn't add Jewishness to your old identity. God didn't become just another among many gods in your life. In a sense, the Gentile died when he went under the water and a new person with a new name, and a new identity was born when he or she came out of the water. John adopts this proselyte's baptism and morphs it into a baptism of repentance.

Remember now these are Jews. John's task wasn't to get people into Judaism; it was to get God's people to realize their sin and turn back to God - to turn from self-centeredness to God-centeredness. This baptism was a moment of humility, commitment and identification; it was the time a person could look to and say, "That's when I did it; I made my commitment public that day."

But why was Jesus baptized; His was a baptism of humility. If you'll recall, amidst the protestations of John the Baptist, Jesus explains why He has come for baptism. Matthew 3:15, Jesus answered him, "Allow it for now, because this is the way for us to fulfil all righteousness." Then he allowed Him (to be baptized). Jesus humbles Himself to do what God asks - it's obedience to God. Jesus does this because God requires it. He lived a life of complete obedience to God - that's why we can say about Jesus, and no other person who ever lived, that He was sinless. I can't say that, and you can't say that; only Jesus can.

Obedience to God is all God's ever asked for. Back when God was getting this whole thing started, He had a conversation with Abraham where He said, "I am God Almighty. Live in My presence and be devout. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you greatly"

Remember I said that the nation of Israel got in trouble when they, "became complacent, took God for granted and turned their backs on Him?" What is that descriptive of - disobedience? Baptism was another in a series of acts of humility and obedience on the part of Jesus. It began with his coming to earth as a helpless infant baby boy; it ended with His crucifixion, and in between Jesus obeyed His Father.

This was also a baptism of commitment. This launched Jesus' ministry that would eventually lead to the cross. He knew where this thing was headed. For three and a half years, Jesus did His thing and it ended with crucifixion. This inauguration began that process. It was a commitment to God's plan and you and me. Finally, Jesus' was a baptism of identification: he affirmed John's ministry and identity with the people He'd come to save.

Jesus took this step of obedience to show us the way - to identify with those of us who do need to repent and turn back. Humility, commitment, and identification: that's really what baptism is all about. But what does that mean for me and you? Although there are approximately 450,000 words in the English language, around 80 percent of our conversations use only about 400 words. It probably comes as no surprise that the most common words in the English language are. . . "I," "Me," "My," and "Mine." There's little question this is the "Me" generation.

But there's so much more to following Jesus! There are incredible benefits to following Jesus: unreserved acceptance, limitless love, God's unmerited favour, grace, forgiveness for all our sins, and purpose in life. Those are powerful benefits to following the Lord. It pays to follow Him.  

Amen