Trinity 6 (Proper 12)
I am at St. Peter’s in the morning and Karen is in the villages. We have a baptism in the morning service of Albie Kelly. The readings of the day are as follows;
Genesis 18: 20-32. In this important piece of writing, a moral question is being resolved by discussion, and in the discussion, it is God’s morals that are being investigated. Two moral absolutes collide; that wickedness must be punished, and righteousness should not be punished because of the wickedness of others, and in this case, it is justice for the innocent that prevails over punishment of the wicked.
Colossians 2: 6-19. Paul is desperate to convey the fact that Jesus is the one thing (way) necessary to understanding our spiritual health and relationship to God. Nothing else is necessary, not religious rituals, angels, philosophy, or asceticism. We have direct access to God through Jesus without any other mediators being needed.
Luke 11: 1-13. The Lukan version of the Lord’s prayer is shorter and less well known than Matthew’s version and the rest of the passage encourages persistence in prayer and that God will and can only give good gifts which are all gifts of the Spirit.
When someone is being baptised, as when we ourselves were baptised, and as Albie Kelly is being baptised soon, we need to remind ourselves what we were, and Albie will be being baptised into, and what baptism itself signifies and Paul’s piece in Colossians today gives a good description of that.
Baptism literally means “Immersion”, though of course we will just pour water over Albie’s head today. It speaks of being immersed in God’s Spirit, that same Spirit that was so evident in Christ’s life and works.
That same Christ who Paul says today is all you need, to be healed, or made whole, or made clean, which are all ways for describing what the word Salvation means. The root of the word Salvation is “salve”, a word we still use to mean a healing balm.
We were baptised into the salvation of God revealed to us in the life, death and resurrection of Christ and the knowledge that this is all we need and doesn’t need any supplementary input, whether that be good works, the intercession of Angels, self-mortification or asceticism, thorough knowledge of theology or philosophy, nor attendance at certain religious festivals.
Some of those things may be good in and of themselves but they can’t add anything to what is already complete. Salvation – divine healing – is the ground, the foundation on which everything else is built. You can’t be “more saved”.
And baptism is the full and complete rite of initiation into Christ. The newly baptised have all the rights and privileges of incorporation into Christ, including the main one of being declared a “child of God” and part of the body of Christ, the church.
We baptise children as an act of faith in God’s prevenient Grace, a grand term that means that we believe that God always makes the first move and is working within an individual long before there may be any formal acceptance of the faith. We believe that our prayers for Albie are effective whether Albie knows he is being prayed for or not.
God is working within each one of us whether we are conscious of it or not.
We of course hope that one day Albie will consciously accept the baptism promises that will be made on his behalf today, but that is not a given. God requires us humans to do some of the heavy lifting ourselves. Baptism is not magic and God doesn’t force Himself into anyone’s life.
The truth only has the power of truth when it becomes true for you.
That is the role that faith plays in the human economy of salvation. The Baptism promises of God only have an effect on the life of an individual when they are believed and lived.
God and his promises of love and commitment will need to be made known to Albie when he is old enough to understand. He will need to be introduced to worship and a worshipping community if he is to understand what those things really mean.
He will need the prayers and encouragement of parents, godparents and the church.
We thrive as individuals when we have the love, encouragement and support of others and of God and this is what the church at its best offers to its members. That was what was offered to us at our own baptisms and that is what is being offered to Albie later this morning.