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Second Sunday in Lent - not throwing the baby out with the bath water

The Baptism of Nicholas Mackenzie Fleming

What happens after the sermon involves Nicholas Fleming fairly closely, so I would like to tell Nicholas what we’re going to do. First of all, we’re going to walk down to the font at the back of the church, and we’ll all turn round to watch. When we stand up and pay attention it means we’re doing something important. And that is true, baptism is important, it is the most important thing that we do in church.

I know, Nicholas, that you might not understand all this, so we’ve asked your mum and dad and your godparents to help. Of course, none of us know exactly how baptism works. We know it is a bit like being born a second time. The first time your born into a human family and this time you are being born into the family of God.

When you were born the first time, when you came out of your mother’s womb, you had to start breathing air like your parents. This time you need to start breathing like God, who is your heavenly Father and Mother. God’s breath is called the Holy Spirit so we will pray that you may be filled with the Holy Spirit so that you and God can breathe together.

The next thing we do is prepare a bath for you, because I’m pretty sure that when you were born last time, someone gave you a bath. So Thomas is going to help me fill a bowl with water ready for the baptism. It’s just ordinary water, but we know that God works through ordinary things and we say a prayer asking God to work through the water and wash away all that separates us from each other and from God. If anyone has had the opportunity to wash someone who is too weak to wash themselves, a baby or an old person, you will know that it can be a moving and spiritual act. It washes away the dirt, yes, but it brings you very close. It is one of those intimate acts which God has given us to wash away the barriers.

But we’re not just giving you a bath, Nicholas, we’re not just getting close and personal, we are baptizing you into the Christian faith. We hope and pray that the faith we have in our community will surround you and stick to you. Faith is a bit like baby powder. We sprinkle baby powder to make your skin all soft and smooth. Faith, faith in Christ, is intended to do the same for our character. So we’ll all say the Creed together. This is faith makes us who we are and we want you, Nicholas, to be covered in faith, too. St Paul says we should put on Christ like clothing, so sometimes we dress babies in a white baptismal gown to show that they are now dressed in Christ.

And next, Nicholas Mackenzie Fleming, we will call you by name and baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen. Just as Jesus told his disciples nearly two thousand years ago. So here you are, all pure and clean and dressed in the life of Jesus.

But we haven’t finished yet – God hasn’t finished with us. God wants you, Nicholas, to be as close to us as he is to God – we need to welcome you into the church. So we receive and welcome you as a fellow member of the body of Christ, as a child of the same heavenly Father and an inheritor with us of the kingdom of God. As from now, you are now our little brother and we are your brothers and sisters. As from now, you are a part of the family of God, as from now you are a part of our lives. That’s what receiving and welcoming means, that’s what it means to be the body of Christ and to be at peace with each other.

So, when we baptise you, Nicholas, we are celebrating new life and giving ourselves more work to do. It’s exactly like being parents. We are promising to love you and to welcome you into our community and worship. We are promising that we will share the good things ad the difficult things of growing up as a Christian. Like all other children without exception, you will do things which delight us and things which make us grit our teeth and shake our heads. There will be times when you will behave like an angel and times when we will wish that your parents will take you home and put you to bed!

But you know, Nicholas, we’re going to keep on welcoming you and loving you. There’s a lesson we can learn from the psalm. Unless the Lord builds the house their labour is but lost that build it. We are a community committed to loving the Lord and to loving our neighbours they way we love ourselves. That’s how God builds the house. If we forget that, then we are wasting our time.
So you see, Nicholas, that God has given you to us as a gift. Soon you will be marked with the sign of the cross to show that you are marked as Christ’s own for ever, just as we are. We are here to help you and you are here to help us to grow into the full stature of Christ. St Paul said that, Nicholas, God wants us to be as perfectly human and as perfectly Godly as Jesus. We’ll give you a candle to remind you of the light of Christ. Look at the candle. That’s called shining, Nicholas, that’s what God wants you to do. In fact that’s what God wants us all to do.

Which is why we finish the baptism with prayer. We pray that we can all keep the promises we have made, you, your Mum and Dad, Craig and Kyria and everybody in this church today.

So now you know, Nicholas, what baptism is all about. Let’s do it, shall we?

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