Acts 9:1-6, John 21:1-9
Introduction: Shortly we’ll baptise Mikayla Rose into the household of the Christian faith, when she’ll become a baptised member of the worldwide, multicultural, multinational Christian church. Although very diverse in its local manifestation, the church is just one thing: it’s the Body of Christ, that is, a living organism working together in the world, guided and filled with the Holy Spirit, that is, the powerful presence of Jesus. When one is baptised, this gift of the Holy Spirit is not only available to each baptised member of the church but also the essential aspect which makes us one with all other baptised members of the church around the world who have received the Spirit of Christ Jesus. It’s that which makes this amazing and perpetually growing church the Body of Christ – the physical presence of Christ in the world. So, we say ‘We believe in one holy and catholic church’ – ‘catholic’, meaning all embracing and including a wide variety.
The Gift of Faith: This is such a wonderful thing to be a part of. But how does that happen? What leads people to want to get baptised or have their children baptised? It happens because of the gift of Faith; this is not something we are just persuaded about through clever arguments but rather a revelation by God. It is, indeed, a gift. As the Jesus put it, ‘You did not choose me, but I chose you’
How does it feel to know that Jesus chose you and called you to be his disciple – his witness in the world to make God’s ways known in word and deed?
Faith is an amazing gift which leads us to want to follow Christ and to be part of this thing which Christ founded: his Church, his one, incredibly diverse multicultural body called to transform the world; not in isolation as individuals but as active members of a local community; that is, the local church. Each church acts as a hub for the work to which we’re all called – a community which enables us to grow in love and understanding of our calling – a community which sends us out at the end of each gathering ‘to love and serve the Lord’ – to fulfil the purpose for which we were called.
Faith Changes everything: I remember being strongly influenced by someone called Vic Jacobson: he was a convicted armed robber who, when in prison had a visitation, as he put it, from Jesus, who said, I’m calling you for a new and divine purpose in your life. This experience completely changed his life’s direction and purpose; he became an extremely fruitful Baptist minister whose story continues to impact me, some 50 years after I met him. This gift of faith, which God initiates and gives us, changes us and is the means by which we receive the power and heavenly gifts we need to fulfil our calling.
This is what happened to Saul of Tarsus who, whilst in the actual process of hunting down believers in Jesus to imprison them, encountered the risen Jesus in the most powerful of divine experiences. He became known as Paul – St Paul - and his letters to early and diverse Christian communities in what is now Turkey, Italy and Greece have had, and continue to have, a powerful influence in shaping the church.
Similarly, the disciples’ encounter with the risen Jesus of which we heard in our Gospel reading today, fundamentally changed them. And their witness and writings still change the hearts of those who read their words which are found in the New Testament part of the Bible. Let’s not neglect to read them and allow them to change us all our life.
Conclusion: So, I pray that today, not only will Mikayla’s life have a new and wonderful, divine purpose; but also, that the Faith God has given each of us will be powerfully rekindled, that this church, going forward, will flourish and be fruitful beyond our imagination. Amen.
The Revd Hugh Ellis, Vicar & Team Rector