(Holds up a copy of the 2009 Lectionary) This little book is the Lectionary. It tells us what readings from the Bible we should read every day. Today it tells us that we have a reading from the book of Act, a reading from the first letter of John, and a reading from the Gospel according to John. And here they are in front of us.
But they are also perfect readings for a baptism, and we have three baptisms today. Let’s have a look at the readings. The first reading tells the story of Philip, and how he baptized an Ethiopian man, an Africa who was the treasurer of the Kingdom of Ethiopia.
The story starts, an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “get up and go to towards the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he got up and went. There are two important things already. Firstly, Philip was told by an angel, a messenger from God, to go down the Gaza road. And secondly, Philip got up and went.
Somehow, a message from God reached Philip and he did what the message said. The bible says, an angel, but that just means “messenger”. Philip could have been talking to the man next door, or the woman in the fruit shop round the corner, or it might have been a glorious glowing angel, with wings like drifted snow, fresh from the presence of the Eternal God.
I’ve never seen a real angel with wings, but God has used men, women and children to send me messages and instructions. And I have been a messenger myself. When Mac first came to St Luke’s, I said to him, “Get up and go down to Marrickville Road.” And sure enough he got up and went.
What happened next? Well, Mac went down to Marrickville Road, and a lot of other roads as well, and there he found people from the Thai community, Kai and Earn, Nok and Bell. This is exactly what Philip did when he went down the road towards Gaza. He found an Ethiopian, the Queen’s treasurer. So, Philip found the Ethiopian and Mac found the Thai people.
The next part of the story is that Philip found that the Ethiopian was reading the Bible. He didn’t understand it, but he was reading it. This tells us that God was beginning to work in the life of this African man. If you start reading the bible and thinking about God, then it shows that God has started to work in your life. The story also tells us that the Ethiopian had been up to Jerusalem to worship – this is another sign of God working in his life.
And God is working in the lives of Earn, Bell and Nok. How do we know? We know because Kai has been bringing Earn to church ever since she was born, and Bell and Nok have been coming here to worship. They have been thinking about God and hearing the Bible read to them for a long time. They are just like the Ethiopian man, reading the Bible and thinking about God.
The bible story tells us that Philip began to teach the Ethiopian, starting with the scripture and telling him the Good news of Jesus Christ. And in our story about the Thai Community, Kai has been teaching Earn, and Mac has been telling Bell and Nok the good news about Jesus.
The end of both stories is the same. The Ethiopian man stopped the chariot and asked to baptized, and today, Earn, Bell and Nok have come here specially, to be baptized.
This is really interesting that the story of Earn, Bell and Nok is the same story as the Ethiopian man who was baptized by Philip. There is a gap of over one thousand nine hundred years between the two stories, but today we learn that God works in our lives, the same way he worked in the lives of those people so long ago.
It must be very important if God is still doing it and we need to find out why it is important. The Gospel reading tells us why God is still at work, touching people’s lives and bringing them to baptism. Baptism is many things. It is new life, it is getting a new name, it is starting on a journey of faith, it is the washing away of sin, but most importantly it is being made a part of the body of Christ. When we become part of Jesus we are his arms and legs, his eyes and ears, his mouth and heart so that Jesus can touch and walk, see and hear, speak and love in the world today. If you want to see Jesus, look around you.
The Gospel compares Jesus to a vine and God to the vine grower. We are like branches which God the vine grower takes and grafts on to Jesus the vine. Grafting is where you take a branch from one plant and fix it to another, so that the branch can share the life of the plant. By itself the branch will die, but if it is joined to the plant, it will live and bear much fruit.
Today, Earn and Nok and Bell are being grafted on to Jesus so that they can share his life and bear much fruit.
How do we know that we are joined to Jesus and how do we know what fruit we should bear?
It is so simple. John, in his first letter says, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” He also says, “If we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made perfect in us.”
So if our lives are full of kindness, gentleness, understanding, hope, joy, perseverance and self control, then we can be pretty sure that God lives in us. If we are not sure, then other people will tell us. We’ll have to work hard, because we are not all kind, gentle, wise, hopeful, joyful, persistent or self controlled. God’s Holy Spirit helps us, and without God we can’t be loving, and if we are loving, then everybody will see that we belong to Christ and Christ belongs to us. “The commandment from God is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.”