All Saints and Baptism. Matthew 5.1-12

We are here today to celebrate. And we have two main things to give thanks for today.

Firstly, we are joining with the church around the world to celebrate All Saints Day, where we give thanks for the saints, their work, lives and their examples.

Secondly, and of great importance is the baptism of …..

It’s always a great celebration for the church when we can baptise and welcome new members into our family.

And in my mind, these two celebrations work well together. Where we give thanks for the lives of those who have gone before us and those who have ensured that knowledge and belief in God has continued down the generations.

And where we give thanks for the potential of these new lives, and pray for their role in this clear continued line as their parents, godparents and all of us gathered here make promises to guide them.

It is equally as important for us to look at the future as it is at the past, and i know all too well that we in the church may like to look at the past a little too much at times. But at other times there can be great lessons for us waiting to be re-discovered.

I don’t know what you think of when I say the word saint.

Possibly you think of the names of people in the bible, or of the stained glass windows around us. Maybe you can think of some historical saints and a story or two of what they have done. But I’d like to offer you two definitions I found a few years back of what a saint is like.

The first is ‘Saints are people who aren’t afraid to live with both the gruesome and the glorious. They are not embarrassed to struggle with the great division between good and evil, life and death, heaven and hell. They are called forth into the unknown and return home not only safe but triumphant.’

We may gulp at this, and think to ourselves that we could never be saints, but I ask that you don’t make that judgement too quickly.

The second came from a little girl and was an ‘out of the mouths of babes’ moment when she was looking at a stained glass window and said, saints are people who let light shine through them.

We are given some guidance in our readings for this morning. In a dramatic reversal of the customs of this world, Jesus foretells the truth of what we’re in store for, and what we need to be working towards.

Unsure of your direction in life? You’re blessed.

Caught under the weight of grief and loss? Joy comes in the morning.

Undervalued and not heard by those around you? God hears you.

Groaning with longing for a moment of respite? The comforter has come.

Campaigning for peace and righteousness, only to be trampled down by violence and abuse, and those spreading lies to discredit you? God is travailing right alongside you.

The saints, Jesus reminds us, aren’t simply those who seem to have it all figured out, whose prayer life is perfect, whose service to church and community are faultless, and who have left a legacy that the rest of us will spend a lifetime aspiring to realize for ourselves.

On the contrary: The saints, Jesus tells us and John reminds us, are those who have suffered – and some who suffer still, even in our midst – and yet are able to praise God all the more.

The saints are those who have known the pain of grief and the sting of death, and still manage to find a way to sing, “Alleluia!”

The saints are those who have been excluded and ignored by every corner of society and yet still find ways to seek and serve Christ, loving their neighbour as themselves.

We are just as much saints as those we first call to mind as being holy and saintly, we are the saints of today and so on this day of All Saints, we not only celebrate the saints that have gone before us, and those who seem more like myths then historical figures of inspiration, but we are also celebrating the saints who are around today, those who have encouraged us in our faith, inspire us to be better Christians, and to follow God with a stronger faith.

In a few moments Richard will be blessing the good and holy St Albans tap water that we’ll be using to it to baptise our six and we’ll be using many symbols which date back to the earliest of times, and I believe they are incredibly fortunate that they not only have the saints of old and the traditions and symbols of the church to guide and teach them into what it means to be a Christian.

But they have the saints on earth in their family in the church and their families at home.

Those of you who have come as part of the baptism party have been asked today to be as saint like in your life as you can for the sake of that child, you are asked to be the best example to them you can be and to teach them all the important lessons you can which will help them grow into the people they will become.

So today we give thanks for All Saints, those we know, those we don’t for their lives, and for the inheritance of faith that has been passed from generation to generation. And we give thanks that we have the chance to pass it on to a new generation.

We pray for those being baptised at the start of their journeys, and we pray for ourselves that we can be the persons through whom the light of God shines and who turns the world workings upside down.

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Baptism sermon of Asa Shay Court Williams

Asa Shay

What we hear about ourselves, and what others tell us affects us. It helps shape us. Sianny read beautifully that well known poem ‘If a child lives with …’  (below) it’s a poem that is important to her and to how her and Kev bring up both Asa and Logan, and it an important message to hold onto for all you who are parents. But I don’t think the message is solely about what affects children, because it can apply to us all.

Through what we are told and the way people behave, we are either built up, or torn down, little by little.

How many messages do we hear every day, from the people around us, tv, radio, advertisements:

You’re too old, too fat, too tall, too young, too skinny, too short.
That you need to change the colour of your hair, the way you dress, the car you’re driving, your mobile phone.
To don’t do that, and don’t do this……..

Imagine how different life would be if we heard more positive messages, and affirmation of who we are.

God says in the writings from a chap, a prophet, called Isaiah
“Don’t be afraid, 
    I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
    When you’re in rough waters, you won’t drown.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
    I’ll show you the way to go—
Because I am God, I am YOUR God,
you are precious to me and I love you,

And this is what God thinks of us, that he wants us, he’s there for us through thick and thin, and that he loves us.

When Jesus was baptised, God told him that he was special, that that he was pleased with him. And we believe that the same is true for Asa that he is special, and that God is well pleased with him.

And there are so many bits of the bible that tell us over and over again of how fabulous God thinks we are, and how much he loves us.

We’ve all made promises this morning, we’ve all promised at this service that we will be part of the process of reminding Asa of how important, and loved he is, despite all the other messages the world will throw at him throughout his life.

Jesus was told that he was loved by God before he’d even done anything. He’d not preached a sermon, or healed anyone yet, he’d not even turned water into wine! But still God loved him.

This has been called the ‘first love’,
It’s the love that is not depended on anything we do, or who we are, it’s the love we don’t have to earn.

It’s the love God has for us.
It’s the love that Sian, Kev and Logan has for Asa.
Asa has not done anything to gain this love, they love him just because he is Asa.
And likewise, this first love is how Asa loves Sian, Kev and Logan, not because of anything they’ve done, although I’m sure they’ve done plenty between changing nappies, dealing with baby sick and the occasional crying session, but he loves them just because they are who they are.

It is my prayer that as Asa grows, you will remember your first love for him, and as he grows, and makes mistakes and learns about the world you all will remember the promises you’ve made today so that with your tolerance, encouragement, praise, acceptance, approval, recognition, honesty, fairness, security and friendliness, he will grow up to be patient, confident, appreciating, loving, liking himself, having goals, knowing truth and justice, trusting and knowing what a nice place the world is to live in.

Knowing how important he is, not just to us, but also to God who will be there for him, from his first steps, till his last.

The messages we hear about ourselves are important, they help shape the view we have of ourselves and of the world. Remember this, not just for today, and not just for Asa, but remember that you are important and what you say and do matters

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“If a child lives with………” Dorothy Law Nolte

If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.

If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.

If a child lives with fear, he learns to be apprehensive.

If a child lives with jealousy, he learns to feel guilt.

If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.

If a child lives with encouragement, he learns to be confident.

If a child lives with praise, he learns to be appreciative.

If a child lives with acceptance, he learns to love.

If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself.

If a child lives with recognition, he learns that it is good to have a goal.

If a child lives with honesty, he learns what truth is.

If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.

If a child lives with security, he learns to trust in himself and others .

If a child lives with friendliness, he learns the world is a nice place in which to live
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23rd Spetember: Baptism Sermon

I decided to talk about the importance of asking questions.

No matter how many questions I asked, I would never know everything about you. For you to know anything about me, you would have to ask me questions. But what would happen if I answered in riddles? Or answered using all the longest words I could find out of a thesaurus? You probably wouldn’t understand what I was trying to tell you. You wouldn’t know what I wanted you to know.

This is how the disciples felt in today’s passage from the gospel according to Mark (9.30-37), Jesus had been telling them that people who hated him would come and get him, and they would kill him. But this would not be the end, he would raise again.

The disciples were really confused and didn’t understand what he was telling them. But rather then ask him, they argued among themselves. They were too scared to ask him.

Once they were settled for the night, Jesus gathered the twelve together,

36 He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

The disciples didn’t ask the questions they wanted to ask, but instead of Jesus telling them off, he reminded them that all are welcome to come to him, all are welcome to come and ask the questions they need to ask, all are welcome, just as they are.

This is something we need to remember, that just because we are baptised does not mean we have all the answers, we all have questions, and we all need to grow in our faith. We do not magically learn stuff, we learn through asking questions, and we should never not ask.