On the Second Sunday after Trinity in 2020, which was also Father’s Day, 24 households across the Benefice Zoomed or Phoned in to the service, bringing 34 people together to worship ‘face to face’. Our Ordinand Simon Aley led the service and ran the technology.
You can view the service at your leisure here on YouTube. Simon’s sermon and visual aids are posted below the YouTube video.
SERMON – St Vitalis, Sbettia, Tunisia, North Africa. Have a look at this picture. What do you think it is?
OK, so it is a byzantine font or baptistry from a church in North Africa dating back to the 5th or 6th century The basilica has largely been destroyed over time but this font/baptistry survived with steps to go down and steps to rise up.
What does its shape remind you of?
Haggia, Sophia, Istanbul – Or what about this second font/baptistry also byzantine, this time from Turkey and only recently excavated when they changed the church to a mosque. Only one set of steps here and perhaps the shape is clearer?
The answer is they are coffin shaped and probably this was quite deliberate. This talk probably needs filing under not for use at a child’s christening service even though it is highly relevant. As the lockdown continues, sacraments like baptism and communion seem distant memories. So, this is an opportunity to reflect on our baptisms and the importance of the sacrament shortly after Easter and Pentecost with which they are so closely linked.
Until now Paul has been writing to the Christians in Rome about the need to turn to Christ and be saved. Now Paul turns his attention to those who have been saved and what this means for each Christian and he demonstrates this with baptism. When you were baptised your old self died Hence these fonts are coffin shaped to vividly demonstrate this metamorphosis. So, what is the significance of baptism?
We are saved not because of anything we did but because of what Christ did for us and that necessitated his death on a cross. This is necessary because as Paul is about to say the wages of sin is death so by spiritually dying with Christ we are united in his saving death and rising out of the water we leave the old sinful self behind and rise out as Christ rose from the dead. Note how Paul describes sin and its wages. For Paul, sin is real, almost a being, a king or a slave-owner demanding wages, its pound of flesh. But sin has once and for all time been deposed and put in its place and we too can shed that burden.
Yesterday morning as we said morning prayer, something I commend to any of you who can or are prepared to rise for 8.30 in the morning and can be accessed most mornings on the same meeting id you used to access this service. Yesterday morning we read from Luke chapter 12 where Jesus says “I have a baptism to be baptised and what stress I am under until it is completed.” Jesus is using the symbol of baptism, because it is a symbol, a sacrament, an outward sign of an inward spiritual grace. He uses that symbol to point towards his death and resurrection that his baptism in the River Jordan was leading up to –the baptism to be baptised. On Pentecost Sunday those of you with us; we looked at Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch baptised into union with Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit right near the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles showing that baptism has been the initiation practice from the very start.
But wait a minute, Simon, these baptisms seem very different from our baptisms and our fonts look more like this:-
This of course is the font at Tixover with the first aid box prominent in the corner in case anything should go wrong, God forbid! Because no one is going to be buried in there or climb out! True, but our liturgy reflects Paul’s imagery of baptism. This is what the Pastoral Introduction to our denomination’s liturgy of baptism says:
“The service paints many vivid pictures of what happens on the Christian way. There is the sign of the cross, the badge of faith in the Christian journey, which reminds us of Christ’s death for us. Our ‘drowning’ in the water of baptism, where we believe we die to sin and are raised to new life, unites us to Christ’s dying and rising, a picture that can be brought home vividly by the way the baptism is administered. Water is also a sign of new life, as we are born again by water and the Spirit. And as a sign of that new life, there may be a lighted candle, a picture of the light of Christ conquering the darkness of evil. Everyone who is baptised walks in that light for the rest of their lives.”
Being baptised does not stop you ever sinning again. Wouldn’t that be great if it did! But baptism does enable us to cast off that old sinful self and rise with Christ with whom we are united as a new creation, no longer in condemnation for our sinful lives to enable us to journey on with God and it does not change whether you are baptised at 16 weeks, 16 years or 16 half-decades
Nor does baptism stop after you are baptised or even after you have confirmed that baptism it is a journey we walk for the rest of our lives, united to Christ. Of course, that walk will not be sin-free but should be sin-less, reduced sin because our lives are united to Christ. We should not take for granted the grace that God has given us and act indifferently. Otherwise we have not left that old sinful life behind. It is by grace that we have been saved and it is by faith in Christ that we walk a new life united with him no longer in condemnation but wanting to live a better life.
Let us pray. This prayer is from the Common Worship Order of baptism.
we thank you for your servant Moses,
who led your people through the waters of the Red Sea
to freedom in the Promised Land.
We thank you for your Son Jesus,
who has passed through the deep waters of death
and opened for all the way of salvation.
Send your Spirit,
that those who are washed in the water of baptism
may die with Christ and rise with him,
to find true freedom as your children,
alive in Christ for ever. AMEN