This sermon is based on Acts 2:1:21. It is a sermon for an infant baptism delivered on Pentecost Sunday to a mixed group of Christians and non-Christians.
During the sermon, I referred to the child, her parents and the godparents by name. Here in the sermon, I have used initials except for the baby's mother and father as the baby and her father have the same initial.
It’s a real joy and a pleasure to celebrate with E and her family on the occasion of her baptism.
The church family here at B Methodist church is pleased that E and her mum have been worshipping with us. (You can see that E has already made her mark on our church, as she’s been showing rather too much interest in the pulpit for her mum’s liking. We’ve decided that she’ll need to learn to talk – and walk! – first before we allow her up there.)
I said earlier that E’s baptism is about two things. It’s about E being baptised into the Church of Christ. And it’s about God’s love for E. So I would like to talk about these two things this morning.
First of all, I want to talk about the Church of Christ, the universal Christian Church.
I also said earlier that today is a very special day for E to be received into the Christian Church. Because today is Pentecost and on Pentecost, we celebrate the birthday of the Church. You heard the birthday story earlier. It’s a strange story about tongues of flames descending on a crowd and about people speaking together in foreign languages that they had never learned.
But what’s this rather odd story got to do with the Church? I want to suggest one fairly simple idea for our consideration this morning: That relationships are very important to God. I want to suggest that relationships are so important to God that God breathed his holy breath of life into the Church by founding it in relationship. Relationship with God and relationship with our fellow human beings.
Now I don’t really think that I need to ‘preach’ about the importance of relationships. A good many of you are here today because you are in relationship with E and Mum and Dad. Whether by blood relationship or by friendship, your lives have touched them and been touched by them in some way. And there is also the Church community here at B Methodist Church; As a regular attender, E has also touched our lives.
I’d like to you imagine that we had a very, very long piece of magical string. And imagine that this string could become as long or as short as we wanted it to be and that it was infinitely flexible and could divide as many times as it needed to. Like a virtual reality drawing tool.
Now imagine that we took one end of this string and gave it to E and then E gave another end to each person here who she knows. Each of those people, in turn, would extend their strings to those people here who know them, and so on, until everyone was connected by this magical string to every other person here who they know.
Think of how many people here today who you know and you can begin to understand why the string needs to be magical. I might be mistaken, but I think everyone would find that they were connected to this piece of string. And if someone decided to change their seat or to leave, then the shape of our magical string would change, and that change would be felt in some way by everyone here.
That’s how it is with relationships: everything we do has an effect on others, either directly or indirectly.
But the Christian Church is not just about relationships between human beings, it’s also about relationships between individual human beings and God. And it’s also about God’s relationship with the community of Christians. Imagine that each one of us also has a string that connects us with God.
When we deliberately gather together as Christians to pray and to worship, we are gathering together in acknowledgment of our connection to God. In these deliberate acts of prayer and worship, the Christian Church calls upon the power of the Spirit of the Triune God to help us to grow to become the people who God calls us to be: a people who are rooted and grounded in love.
This is the church into which E has been welcomed and baptised this morning.
The Church which was founded in the Holy Spirit of the Triune God and which strives to be faithful to that Spirit. Although today E is not old enough to intellectually work out what being part of a Christian Community means for her, she is nonetheless part of that community.
Because baptism was never about just me and God. Baptism – by water and by the Holy Spirit – was always about community.
As the old song goes: ‘love isn’t love until you give it away’. Love is about relating to other people; you can’t give love to yourself.
And so that brings us to ‘love’. We said that, in addition to making E part of the Christian Church, that her baptism proclaims God’s love for her.
The bible talks about a God who loves us like children. It often refers to God as our Father but there are also images of God as a mother. It is in these parental images that we can get a hint of God’s love for each one of us.
Mum and Dad have very literally committed the rest of their lives to being in relationship with E and seeking the very best for her. They will devote all of their waking hours to her during her first years, and a considerable amount of emotion, attention, time, money and devotion after that. No matter what she does, they will always be her parents and always seek what is best for her.
This is with this parental tenacity that God loves each one of us. Although we do have the freedom to decide not to speak to God, there is nothing that we can do that will make God stop offering us his parental love. God’s love will always seek to bring us into right relationship with him and into right relationship with other people. God will always seek to do right by us.
In baptising E, we did not bring her into this love of God for the first time, we simply acknowledged together as a Christian family the love of God which already existed for her before she was even born.
Today is Pentecost, the Church’s birthday. It is the day when the Church celebrates her relationship with God. And it is the day when Christians celebrate their relationship with each other.
Today of all days, we remember these invisible strings that connect us, in love, with God, with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and with all of humankind. We remember that relationships are fundamental to our humanity and to our spirituality. And we remember that love, the commitment to the well-being of others, is the stuff by which good relationships are made.
Today we also celebrate the fact that Mum and Dad have brought E to be baptised and to acknowledge God’s love for their daughter. We rejoice with them that J, D, T and R have pledged to support Mum and Dad in nurturing E in her Christian faith. And we give thanks that E has been baptised into the Christian Church.
I pray this morning that E and her family and Godparents may grow in the knowledge and the love of God, and that the Spirit blesses each one of us here today with God’s love.
And I make my prayer in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.