Why remember something that already happened? This is meant to be a new year, new you! Why look back, let's only look forward. So why do we hear about a baptism, and remember our own baptism which happened in the past? Well I believe, we can’t know where we are going unless we know where we have come from- and for us this morning that’s baptism. We must start somewhere, and for us Christians, it's around the font, with the gentle cool water of baptism lapping at our ankles as we wade in deeper and deeper throughout our lives into it, trying to understand what life in Christ is all about. So we start somewhere, in that moment when God called us to new life in Christ, to use our gifts, talents, and money, to bring in his kingdom in our world.
Growing up for most of us, baptism was a private event, done during the week, behind the locked doors of a church- often with little connection to our lives. We might have even been baptized because “that's what you did” when you had kids, which is partly why the church developed the rite of confirmation, so that as adults we can affirm our faith for ourselves, after an infant baptism. The action we participate in around that water is more than just “what we do”, it’s who we are, and those of us who have seen the vicar at the font know, that when we gather we get wet, because through it we get a physical taste of God’s generosity to us. Gone are the days of gentle drops of water off a gilt shell, behind closed doors, because baptism at its very core is disruptive. It disrupts things because through it new life is born, and new gifts set free for the development of our world into the Kingdom of God. So today, we gather at the edges of the Jordan River, where Christ was baptized, where there is no small bowl or dainty silver gilt shell. Rather there are undulating and churning waves of water that bring new life to the banks it touches all the way down the river. Baptism remains a disruptive splash for us, because of what it starts and states: That God’s still with us and that God’s kingdom is here, even when our world is tearing itself apart.
With the threat of war looming again over our heads, the world feels tense today. It feels like forever since the joy of Christmas, but it's only been two weeks, and we are already baptizing an adult Jesus. Time matters, in the gospels, so this quick jump in our time is important to pay attention to. Jesus has had all the growing, and is now ready to go out in ministry- but first he needs to inaugurate it. They only way we are ever able to start something is with God’s help, so at the shores of the Jordan River comes Jesus to seek God’s help in starting what he came among us to do- to invite and remind us of the relationship we have with God in our everyday. We know this relationship to be prayer, prayer with God, and God’s prayer with us. Jesus came among us to build relationships between us and God, the depth of which no one could remove from us. This is what baptism starts for us, a relationship of prayer so deep, that it takes the rest of our lives to figure it out.
The splash we hear at the moment of our baptism or as we renew our baptism, as the water rushes over us, is a reminder of God’s disturbing presence among us. In baptism we are called to live differently, to see differently, to be differently, in the world because of what and who we follow. We are called to disrupt the powers of inequality, to shake up the status quo, to hold accountable the wider society we are a part of, to the purpose of Christ’s ministry. This purpose is to bring community where there is isolation, to bring peace where there is war, to bring hope where there is sorrow, to bind up the wounded and transform the landscape of our city with the economy of God’s kingdom. We do that here together in this place, in the ministry that God has given you and I to do together. To feed the hungry, and shelter the homeless via our neighbourhood ministry. To tend the sick and isolated in our visits to Purdy Pavilion. To create, build, and empower, community via our fairs, fets and worship. And most importantly to stand in the margins of our society and show everyone we meet that they are enough as they are right now, that they are loved, and that they are saved in Christ Jesus. We do this work together through the sacraments of eucharist, baptism, confirmation, anointing, and marriage. What brings us to these moments, to the homeless, the shut ins, to community, and the sacraments, is prayer. The process of knowing ourselves more deeply in the eternal relationship with God, leads us to do more, to seek more, to go deeper with God. And God gives us these moments to help us understand who we are to him, and how together we can do the work of building God's kingdom.
Today we launch a seven week program called “New Year, New You: Going deeper with God in prayer.” Over the next seven weeks, we will add a new prayer practice to our individual tool kits as a way of honing our relationship with God in our everyday. For some, this will be a check up, for others, it will be a whole new beginning. There will be practices we love, and practices that make us question the vicar’s sanity- but stick with me in this. The way in which we figure out how and where God is calling us into deeper relationship is in and through prayer. The process of prayer is about enlightening our inner lenses, the way in which we see the world, to move beyond our everyday and into God's day. Renewing our baptism, as we are about to do today, is a time to check in with ourselves and with God about how we are doing in our promises of faith, to feed the hungry, tend the sick, visit the isolated, and preach the redemptive message of Christ to a world that is scared, isolated, and alone. Renewing our baptism keeps us accountable to ourselves, to God, and to each other. But before we get wet, we gotta pray.
As much as prayer is the fuel for our journey, it is also disruptive, as through it we are called into new places, to form new relationships, to bring new people to faith in God that will change us forever. This is why the motto of Christians, to me, is “always changing.” Yet change, as humans and a community, can be the hardest thing to ever do because we crave patterns- they keep us sane. However, in baptism, the disruptive presence of God means that we are always on the lookout for the new person, the visitor, the stranger. That we are always ready to share the faith, to share our personal faith, with those who come to seek Jesus with us. The way we figure out how to do that is in prayer. We pray to understand our lives, to understand our world, and to listen with God to understand how we are to live and act in this world. God tells us at the inauguration of Christ’s disruptive ministry of community, freedom, love, and hope in the midst of death, to which we are all called, that he is pleased by what he sees. Are you ready to get wet and disrupt the world again with this message of God’s pleasure ingrained in our ministry to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world? Because people's lives depend on your answer.