Preached by Rev. James McKay on July 23, 2017.
Genesis 28: 10-22
Psalm 139: 1-12, 23-24
Colossians 3: 1-17
Matthew 28: 16-20
Come Grow With Us… Into (y)our Baptism
No doubt you are aware of the invitational sign on the outside west wall of this sanctuary, which reads, “Come and Worship with Friendly Presbyterians.” Maybe too, you recall those who have asked, “are there unfriendly Presbyterians?”… to which the people of St. Andrew’s reply, “yes, but not us!!”
A few years ago in St. Catherine’s, Ontario, we saw a sign on an Anglican church which read, “Two services, 9 and 11 a.m. each Sunday, ample parking, a children’s program, free coffee…the rest is up to you!”
These messages got me thinking about how to extend a public invitation to any and all who might just be keeping an open mind about the loving presence of a good and gracious God-one in whom they could confidently place their trust. Might they also be hoping to find a fellowship of faithful, caring and welcoming disciples of Jesus, with whom they could discover or re-cover a fulfilling sense of belonging?
In the declaration and welcome greeting to Kendrick Adomako Boateng this morning, I believe we have been given a very promising platform.
“Come grow with us into Christ who is our head.”
Come grow with us into YOUR baptism and into OUR baptism – the baptism that we share with ALL Christ’s disciples everywhere.
Such an invitation would imply that we are a community of Christ still growing in a deepening relationship with Him and that we know where we are headed since we se3ek to live in a relationship with Jesus – whom we affirm as the way, the truth, and the life of our lives.
Today, as we celebrated the sacrament of baptism, the invitation to “Come Grow With Us” is extended to Kendrick, a newly baptized child of God, just three months and a few days old.
Long before he can even understand what has taken place here, he has been invited to come journey with his parents and all of us as we grow forward into the baptism we share and mature together n faith, in hope and in love.
Can this invitation be a model for a wider, more inclusive and very public invitation to the watching, waiting world around us?
Consider the passers-by who may think, “I wonder what kind of congregation this one is?”…or the Sunday-shopping visitors who are looking for a church home that is genuinely loving and receptive to all. How about those who WERE baptized as infants or as youngsters or as teenagers but who never really followed through nor grew into their baptism? Might some of them be prompted to re-affirm their baptism…responding to Christ’s invitation? Are there friends and neighbours we consider inviting?
Come to me,
All you who labour ad are heavily burdened,
And I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you,
And learn from me:
For I am gentle and lowly in heart,
And you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy,
And my burden light.”
(Matthew 11: 28-30)
What sort of invitation is this? It’s an invitation to enter into a lively and enduring relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, ‘through whom God has come to us and through whom we come to God.”
It is an invitation to enter a new and life-giving realm of existence we experience as the Kingdom of God. It is an invitation to be re-born as a child of God- not a child of privilege, but a child of blessing, a child of promise, one bearing the sign of God’s gracious favour.
Baptism then, is a “gift from God”, received in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ – a gift that signals, ‘the beginning of a new life in the world where ethical, social and political decisions are made in the light of our response to God in Christ’ – in other words, our acceptance of God’s acceptance of us.
Cleansed, forgiven, healed and reborn, we begin to grow in grace – as we are nurtured by parents, family, friends, by mentors in the faith, by those who model discipleship transparently until we mature in the ways of Jesus and live together as the body of Christ, the fellowship of believers, becoming a blessing to the neighbourhood and to the world.
Day by day, week by week, through worship together, nourished by sacraments – of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism, by prayer, the study of scripture, rejoicing in the gifts of the Spirit given to us to share with one another to build up this fellowship, we grow!!
Listen again to Colossians 3: 12 for this portrait of Christian maturity. ‘United to Christ, participating in his reforming death and resurrection, your new life is secure in God, so now clothe yourselves in the new self that knows no barriers of nationality or social status or gender but as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Bear with one another with you have disagreements and be ready to forgive one another if things boil over. Above all, clothe yourselves with love which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.
It’s like a Christian Manifesto for the Church as the Beatitudes of Jesus are for the life of discipleship.
The Book of Common Worship for Presbyterian Churches in the USA, in its section on the re-affirmation of one’s Baptism,
The Call of Christ is to willing, dedicated discipleship.
Our Discipleship is a manifestation of the new life
Into which we enter through Baptism.
It is possible because in Jesus Christ
we have been set free from the bondage of sin and death.
Discipleship is both a gift and a commitment,
an offering and a responsibility.
It is marked by change, growth and deepened commitment.
It is lived out of a renewing sense of God’s calling to us,
and of God’s claim upon us made in our baptism.
(BCW, PCC, USA, p. 479-8)
-a significant deepening of personal commitment
-answering a call to a particular ministry
-marking an occasion of growth in faith.
All are opportunities to re-affirm the baptismal covenant into which we have been born and grown more nature in faith, hope and love through the Spirit of Christ in us.
Just last month we met a couple who live close to san Francisco and who are actively involved in their local congregation’s ministry, she directed the children and youth ministry there. For the past several years they have travelled each summer to work in a tiny village in Yugoslavia which their congregation is totally rebuilding.
This is not “fake new”, or “alternative facts”, but Good News of the Gospel of Jesus building the Kingdom of God from the ground up.
There is so much Good News of Kingdom building energy and passion, compassion and celebration: Our New Presbyterian Church Quarterly Newspaper is full of such wonderful and compelling news…
From a report on the National Presbyterian Women’s Gathering, “Rooted in Love”, in Richmond Hill, Ont. May 19-22.
“The event created many opportunities for recounting stories for bringing women together to share what God is doing in their lives and in the world. Participants listened to the testimonies of three women relaying how they have experienced God’s love in the community of the local church and in the Gathering said, “We are called to testimony, which is merely to tell our stories, to share our love of Jesus and how Jesus has transformed our lives.” (p. 18)
Vivian Ketchum, a First Nations woman from Northern Ontario, originally and currently a member of ‘Place of Hope PC’ in Winnipeg tells about the pathos of far too many vigils for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. (p. 16)
Christopher Fischer, a pastoral musician at Knox Church in Guelph states, “I have come to know the transformative power of music as a sign of God’s loving and abiding presence in the church.” (p. 16)
Alexandra Belaskie describes a mentoring ministry the PCC shares in partnership with the UCC in guiding the way for social ministries to ‘share the common purpose of putting Jesus’ message of caring for our neighbours especially those who are marginalized, into action.’
Finally, in the “just wondering” column someone asks, “I was just wondering…I wasn’t baptized. Can I still join a Presbyterian Church?
The reply by someone who as a child kicked and screamed through his own baptism said, “Some of the most moving celebrations in the life of a congregation happen when adults stand in the company of God’s people, trickling with baptismal water while declaring faith in the Triune God.”….AND, the advice columnist added as a footnote, “with adults you can almost guarantee there won’t be any kicking or screaming!” (p. 18)
Couldn’t you or I tell an amazing story of that time in our lives, a time when we least expected it, the light of God’s loving presence in Jesus finally dawned on us, and like Jacob in that old story in Genesis, we awakened to faith, exclaiming “Surely the Lord is in the place, and I did not know it!
We do not know who is at the centre of the really Good News and to this very welcome news of God’s amazing love in Jesus we can say to whomsoever will….
“Come, grow with us into the body of Christ who is our head.”