This was a sermon for a baptism. Readings were 1 John 4:6-16 and Matthew 19:13-15
We have come here this morning as we do every Sunday morning to worship God as a Christian community, to praise God, to pray together and to sustain and support each other in our Christian life.
And this morning we are especially blessed to welcome the family of L who has just been baptised and, through his baptism, welcomed into the world-wide Church of Christ.
This morning’s reading from the first letter of John gives us a very good summary of the core beliefs of the Christian faith: That God loves each and every one of us because he made us. That God showed his love for us through Jesus. And that God lives in us and that he calls us to be agents of his love in the world.
So, I want to think about each of these things very briefly this morning in light of L’s baptism.
God loves us because he made us
First of all: God loves us because he made each and every one of us.
The baptism service that we witnesses this morning is a wonderful sign of God’s love for each and every one of us. In the service, we heard that everything that God has done for L – and for us, of course – was done before he (or we) could even know anything about it.
The offer of God’s love never depends on anything that we do, it is simply there, like the love of a good parent. God’s love doesn’t depend on our good behaviour; it doesn’t depend us loving God back; it doesn’t depend on anything. God simply loves us because he created us. And God loves everything that he created.
Just like a good parent wouldn’t say: ‘I’m not going to love you until you clean up your room’, God doesn’t make his love dependent on our good behaviour. God simply loves us because he created us.
We heard in this morning’s short reading from Matthew that God wants to give his love to little children, but he also wants to give his love to adults, even those who might think that they are no longer loveable.
God Showed his Love for Us Through Jesus
Secondly: God showed his love for us through Jesus.
On the one hand, this is a simple statement, on the other hand, there is an awful lot in it. There is enough material here for many sermons and we only have a few minutes.
In Jesus, God was born into the world as a small baby, and, like L here today, he was dependent on human beings in order to grow into an adult. Not only did Jesus come to teach us, but in some sense he also learned from us and was dependant on us.
But Jesus did also come here to teach us. He was a healer and someone who forgave sins.
Imagine what the world would be like if every single person imitated Jesus and devoted their life to healing rather than harming and to forgiving rather than holding grudges.
But human beings didn’t embrace Jesus’ message of healing and forgiveness. Instead, we rebelled against who he was and we killed him.
And there is something about that death of Jesus that brought hope into the world. We killed God, we thought that we killed healing and forgiveness and hope, but God had the final word at Easter. The resurrection is God’s demonstration that healing and hope and forgiveness will always be his final word to humankind.
And so today we have baptised L into God’s world of healing and hope and forgiveness.
We are Called to Live As Christ Lived
And finally, we are called to live as Christ lived.
When an adult is baptised, he or she receives confirmation directly after the baptism according to the ancient pattern. This confirmation is the adult person’s declaration that they intend, with God’s help, to try to live the sort of life that Jesus lived.
L, of course, can’t make that decision for himself and so today is he has been baptised into the sign and symbol of God’s love. As a baby, L’s ‘job’ right now is to be loved and cherished and to grow up surrounded by the love of God and of family.
And so baptism is a fitting sacrament in light of L’s age and L’s ‘job’.
But it is the hope and prayer of the church that, as he grows up, he will learn about the love of God and that he will want to be confirmed and to make a public commitment as a follower of Christ.
Because Christianity isn’t just for babies and children. As we grow older, we wrestle with life issues that are complex and don’t always have easy answers. Things like uncertainty, fear, disappointment, and health issues. As Christians, we believe that we have guidelines by which to negotiate difficult life situations.
Life doesn’t always provide easy answers in these situations, but not only do we have our brothers and sisters in Christ with whom we can share our burdens and struggles, but we also believe that we have the help and power of the Holy Spirit through prayer and fellowship.
So this morning we have participated in L’s baptism as a Christian community and we have welcomed him into the house of God via the sacrament of Baptism.
This sacrament expresses the love of God, freely given to all of us before we even knew anything of it.
In a few minutes we will celebrate another sacrament: the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is also a place where human beings are freely invited into the love and forgiveness of God. This God’s celebration banquet where all are welcome. With God, there is no such thing as an invited guest or an uninvited guest, but all are welcomed provided that it is their intention to meet with Christ and accept the hospitality of his table.
So it is my prayer this morning that, just as L has met with God in the sacrament of Baptism, that the rest of us may also meet with Christ in this service of worship and at the Lord’s Table. As God’s family, we come to his meal, we celebrate his presence and his love among us, and we welcome our brother L and his family into the presence of the living God.