We Need Eachother, We Need God (1 Corinthians 12:12-18, 21-25, Luke 3: 21-22)
Today is a special and exciting day. I mean, I know every Sunday at St Peter Mancroft is a whirlwind of excitement, but this is a special occasion. In case you haven’t noticed, Today three people are being baptised, Emily, Tim and Theo. It is amazing to have them here, and I’m pretty sure that God thinks it’s great that many friends and family have come from far and wide to share this special spiritual moment with us, welcome to all of you too.
Theo, Emily and Tim are being brought in, and welcomed into this Church. Into God’s worldwide church which has so many amazing and varied expressions. Today they are being baptised not as Church of England, or Anglican, but as a Christian. There’s no such thing as an Anglican baptism, only a Christian one.
Today is a celebration and Thanksgiving for the gift of Theo too, it’s a celebration of the love that created Theo, both Stuart and Becca’s love for one another, and God’s love for Theo, Emily and Tim, and God’s love for each and every one of you.
Because we need each other, and we need God too.
Today, Tim, Emily and Theo are being brought into the Body of Christ, initiated into The Church of God, but what does that mean? It sounds like a strange metaphor doesn’t it, but it makes sense if we think about it.
St Paul talks about this in his letter to the Corinthians which we read today, the passage we read comes from a part of the letter that deals with spiritual gifts.
Now the Corinthian community, they were quite an enthusiastic bunch. They were up for anything. They were bouncy, energetic, a bit like Theo after his morning nap, or myself after my 7th cup of tea in the morning.
Many of them felt like they had special ‘spiritual gifts,’ I don’t mean stuff like tap dancing or singing, but things like praying in tongues, and being possessed by the spirit of God.
Now that’s not bad in itself, but the thing that concerned Paul was that these gifts were getting very close to being self- indulgent, and were being used to isolate and ostracise.
The Corinthian Church had been creating a hierarchy of those who are in, and those who are out, those who are ‘gifted’ in certain ways and those who aren’t.
Not everyone has the same experience, but when I was at school, because I wasn’t naturally academic, or sporty, I felt like my talents and my gifts weren’t valued, because they couldn’t be marked or examined.
Has this ever been the case in your life? Where you’ve felt cast aside because your gift or talent doesn’t quite fit in? Perhaps you’ve been undervalued or unappreciated?
This must have been how many of the Corinthian Christians were feeling. Can you imagine being ostracised from a community for not doing or acting a certain way?
Many of the Corinthians had been openly despising people who didn’t speak in tongues, or do certain things. They treated them differently and without respect, this really concerned Paul.
It was unacceptable in his view, the Corinthians had forgotten a simple fact, that we need each other.
In verse 11, just before our reading, Paul says that the Spirit gives gifts to everyone, every believer has gifts. To explain this Paul uses the metaphor of a body.
Paul says we need hands and eyes and ears in equal measure, we need all of these things because without them we wouldn’t be able to feel, or see, or hear. If our physical bodies were made entirely of eyes, how would we hear? Something would be missing.
For a body to function, there must be different parts. It can’t all be feet! We all have different parts of our bodies, but these different parts fit together in a unique way, to make a body, however flawed or weak those different parts of the body are, they are part of our body, and we’d be lost without them.
The Church is a body, the church is people, the people are parts of the body, though I’ll leave you to decide who the armpits are!
Without varied and different parts, without a mixture of hands and feet, and noses and mouths, we are not a full body.
The weak parts are as important as the strong parts, because we need each other and we need God. God does not cast aside anyone based on their gifts or talents.
“For we were all baptised by one spirit so as to form one body – whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free – and we were all given the one spirit to drink.”
There is no distinction. God has given every one of us gifts, it doesn’t matter who you are or how faithful a person you are, God wants and welcomes everyone into the Church. It’s not our place to mark others like at school, we are not superior. Our diverse gifts will help us to flourish as a community. What’s all this got to do with Baptism?
Theo, Emily and Tim are taking a step today on a lifelong journey of faith. It takes a village to raise a child. For those of you who are Godparents and parents, your job is to support and nurture Theo in coming to understand the love that created him, and the loving principle that we need each other.
That we are all valued and loved by God.
In this baptism we recognise that Emily, Tim and Theo are part of this body, and that we are part of one another. That we need them, and they need us. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” It’s our job as a community to bring them into this body, to love them and support them whenever they need us.
Baptism is all about being brought into the body of Christ, we need each other and we need God.
But even more fundamentally, Baptism is about the unconditional grace filled love of God, which pours into our lives and into the universe.
Baptism is a sign, a physical sign of the work that God is doing in and through and with us, with this body. It’s a recognition that we are thanking God for our lives, for Theo as a precious gift. It’s a sign of his love for Theo, Emily and Tim, that hasn’t gone anywhere and will never go away.
As was written in our gospel reading today, the holy spirit descended like a dove, and a voice came from heaven ‘You are my son, whom I love, with you and I well pleased.’
My hope and prayer is that everyone here knows, that is what God is always saying to you, over and over again, from the beginning of time to its ending.
I love you, I am pleased with you. You are precious to me, you are part of me, as you are part of each other.
The love that Stuart and Becca have for Theo, the love that Tim and Emily have for one another, is a tiny reflection of the love and grace that God has for them.
My hope and prayer is that Theo, Emily and Tim will perhaps hear that voice from heaven, and know it deeply for themselves. That Theo will grow up knowing that God loves him and all his family, and friends, that when he laughs, God laughs with him, that when he cries, God cries too.
It’s with joy that we bring these people to baptism today, and it’s with joy that God has always received them.