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Sunday 30th January 2011. A few words to Irene

Irene, today we welcome you into our family. You have really been a member of our family since you were born. Even since before the world began, before the sun and the moon and the stars were made, even before God’s mouth opened to say, “Let there be light!”; even before there was a beginning, you were chosen to be part of this world, and part of this family.

Today is very exciting for your mum and dad, your godparents and for us. Today we are doing what God has been waiting for us to do. Today we thank God for your birth and your health. Today we thank God that Tonka and Bell have come together as husband and wife to share in God’s work of creating new life. Today we thank God that Linda and Wit and Raboom have offered to care for you specially; to teach you to love God and to help you to be the person God intends you to be.

We’re going to say a lot of words today, Irene, in English and in Thai, but may be you are too little to understand. What is most important is what happens, what we do.

Irene, we will pour a little water on your head. This water we bless so that it can be used for the mystical washing away of sins. You know how your mum washes you with warm water to make you all clean and beautiful? Well, that’s what we will do for you today. The water of baptism washes away all the things which might spoil your life.

We will sign you with the sign of the cross to show that you belong to Christ and his death and resurrection give you life for ever.

We will give you a candle to remind you to shine with the beauty of God, and we will promise to love you in the same way that we love God and we hope that you will love us and love God as well.

The Bible says a lot about love, and how to love. For example, in our first reading, the prophet Amos says, what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God? We will do our best to be kind, courteous and respectful towards you. We will try to be patient and joyful. We’ll try to be gentle and faithful and we hope that you will learn these things as you get to know us, for these are the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

We hope that you will join us and come to know and love God. This might seem difficult at first because no one can ever tell you or show you what God is. Nobody can describe or define God. God is beyond our imagination and our thoughts, our poor brains are simply not able to cope.

We can say what God is like, but we will never be able to say what God is.

We can call God “Father” as we do in the Lord’s prayer, but that’s because in the love of a parent we can see something of God’s love. We can call God our rock, because a rock is solid and doesn’t move. We can feel safe when standing on a rock and we can feel safe with God. We can say God is like a baker woman who mixed yeast into her flour to make bread. Maybe God mixes good things into the trouble of the world so that we can find joy in our struggle with life. Irene, perhaps you might like to say that God is like a mother or a midwife who brings you to birth. God has taken you out of the womb and brought you into the world. It is warm and comfortable, but a bit cramped inside your mother, and when God brings you out things are very different. You must learn to breathe and to see and to eat. Being born brings many changes.

God does this to all of us, every day. When we are comfortable things change; we learn new skills and face new challenges all our lives. God brings us to birth every waking day.

But there is a special place where we come to know God better. It’s called the church, and this is where we learn a little bit about God, but it is here we can experience God and begin to feel God changing our lives.

Everything we do points to God. By gathering together we know that God wants to include us. By singing we know that God rejoices in our joy. By reading the Bible we can become part of the story of God and God’s story becomes part of us. By sharing the peace we see God in the eyes and faces of friends and strangers. When we take the bread and wine we know that God is with us, as close as eating and drinking, and we form a circle around the altar and find that God is not far away but in the midst of us. When we are gathered in God’s name, we find God with us.

In this place we try and turn our closeness to God into action; we care for each other and for our church community. And when we leave this building, God is still with us, we are still the church, the body of Christ and we keep on caring for our neighbours, our friends and our world.

Irene, I hope this will be true for you. St Paul says that God chooses the weak to teach the strong and the young to teach the old. Your name, Irene, means ‘peace” and you are with us to teach us how to be peaceful towards each other and the world. Peace is not just the absence of war. Peace is the action of building community, strengthening relationships, drawing closer to God and to each other and to the people around us. The children of Israel have a special word for this kind of peace. The word is “shalom”

Irene, Jesus said that the peacemakers would be blessed and called God’s children. Today we baptise you in to the ‘shalom” of God and pray that we may be children of God with you.

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