April 24, 2012
Luke 24, 36b-48 Service of Baptism in Eucharist
During the baptism of S. his parents and godparents will promise that they will encourage him, as he grows up, to learn to know God, to follow Jesus Christ in the life of faith and to serve their neighbour following the example of Jesus. In other words, they will encourage him to witness to his faith.
Our Gospel today describes how the risen Christ told his disciples that they must be witnesses to the whole world of what they saw in his life, his death and his resurrection. S’s parents and godparents are promising today that he will grow up to be a disciple of Christ; but the task that Jesus gave to his disciples after the resurrection seems a bit of a heavy load to give to such a small child.
It would have seemed an impossible job to the original disciples too – a small group of rather frightened, not very well educated, not at all wealthy men and women in an obscure corner of the Roman Empire. But they did it! And today, 2000 years later, there are about 2.1 billion followers of Christ throughout the world.
Sometimes they spoke to large crowds, and lots of people accepted the Christian faith at one time. But, most of the time, it happened one or two people at a time, with someone who was already a Christian telling two more, and each of them witnessing to two more, and each of them converting two more- and the mathematically mined among you will know how quickly very small numbers become very big numbers when that happens.
That’s not a difficult thing for anyone of any age to do.
A more difficult question, especially as we get older, is HOW we are to witness to our faith.
Some people think it’s all about talking to people about Christ and the Bible and Church – that is important, but it’s not the most important thing – and the best witnesses are not always those who talk a lot, but those who silently observe and say just the right thing.
Some people think it’s important to wear something to show you are a Christian. That can be a very important way of quietly witnessing who you follow, whose commands you obey.
But it is actually more important to LIVE the cross than to wear a cross. The baptism commission that will be read to S’s parents and godparents sets out what that means in everyday life: a life of love and service to our family, our neighbours and especially to those who are different from us and even those who hate us and wish us ill. A life in which we struggle against anything that brings pain or division into our communities, against anything that brings conflict into our neighbourhoods, and against anything that perpetuates injustice and inequality in our world. A life which in which we constantly examine what we do, and repent of anything that falls short of the standards which God expects of us. It is a call to embody in our own lives the message and mission of Christ.
The cross in oil and water which will be made on S’s forehead will soon be invisible. But we pray that he will so live the cross that he will grow into a shining witness for Christ through his whole life.