Sunday, November 18, 2012

why not wait for baptism?

May my words be in the name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Baptisms are something of a win-win situation. On the one hand, we get to welcome a new member into our Christian family … on the other, because baptisms take up a bit of time in our liturgy, they mean that the priest has to preach a short sermon if the service is to finish on time! What's not to like!

Today we are welcoming C into the Body of Christ … and as he is a little older than the typical baptismal candidate he got to ask some questions about what he was letting himself in for while he was being prepared for baptism. And I must say that he asked a few very good questions. One was: is it true that when you're baptised, all your sins are washed away? Well, yes it is, I said. No matter how serious the sins are? asked C. No matter how serious, said I. What about murder, he said. Even murder. What about lots of murders. Even if you had killed thousands I said. But wouldn't God hold it against you if you had been really bad like that? No, I said, after baptism it's like the slate has been wiped clean, and as far as God is concerned it is as if they had never happened …

So then C asked his best question. Well, he said, since I haven't really done anything bad in my life yet, why shouldn't I wait until I'm really old, like say 56, and get baptised then and get all the bad stuff washed away then?

As I said, brilliant question. Why shouldn't we wait? Obviously, as we're all standing here today getting ready to baptise C, I must have given him an equally brilliant answer that persuaded him that it was the right thing to do to go ahead with things! Now part of what I said was that it is all very well to think you can live as you please and then get it all washed clean when you think you're too old to live wild and free any more … but what happens to your plans to get baptised at 56 if you get hit by a bus when you're 26? After all, we know not the day nor the hour! And, even if you did make it to 56, it might be pretty hard to change your ways after all those years of thinking you could commit all the sins you want … and C, being a person of good sense, decided that plans should proceed …

But I had another thought about his question after reading today's Gospel reading. In it the disciples are pointing out to Jesus what a fine building the temple in Jerusalem was … and it was a fine building … probably the largest in the Ancient World … it covered acres and acres of ground … all of huge blocks of cut stone … it had taken decades to construct … and Jesus isn't even the tiniest bit impressed … he knows that in a few years the Romans will have reduced the place to rubble … & even without the Romans, time itself would eventually grind the place down to dust and sand … there is nothing that man makes that can last … nothing of this world lasts … so we shouldn't worry about them too much … but should set our hearts on things that do last, eternal things … things that we can not achieve on our own, but need God's help and Grace ... 
And that's what baptism helps us with … it plants the seed that will grow, if we let it, into eternal life … we may think we can build a perfectly fine life without God's help … but scripture tells us otherwise … that life is like the temple … it may be impressive for a time … but eventually it will crumble … and if it is set only in this world without its foundations in the next when it does crumble its sand and dust will be scattered on the winds and forgotten … but those who build seeking God's help first, build something that is eternal … because what they have built has its foundations in heaven and can never be destroyed … 

And that is what we are doing here with C today … we are planting the seed … a seed that will grow into something greater … a seed that brings God's power and strength into his life … and as he makes his promises today, I pray that he will keep them and grow into what God wants him to be … just as I pray that you will all keep the promises that you are about to make that you will support him on his journey … because that is part of your growing into what God wants of you also … so let us pray for each other that we will keep these solemn promises today & always … and so build towards eternal life. Amen.

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