Sunday, 17 September 2006

A Baptism Sermon: for Our Ministry Fair and Chukwuemeka’s Baptism with Reference to Mk 8:27-38 and Casting Crowns' "Lifesong"

A favourite song on the Polish mission trip was Lifesong, by Mark Hall of the band Casting Crowns. One of the verses goes like this:
May the words I say / And the things I do / Make my lifesong sing / Bring a smile to You.
And then the chorus:
Let my lifesong sing to you / Let my lifesong sing to you / I want to sign your name to the end of this day / Knowing that my heart was true / Let my lifesong sing to you
If Jesus was to ask us the same question He asked the disciples in our gospel, “And what about you? Who do you say I am?” and if our lives were songs…lifesongs…who would they say Jesus is? How obvious would He be? To whom are our songs being sung? How can we make Jesus more obvious in our lifesongs? How can we sign His name to what we say and do?

In a few moments, Felix and Jackie, along with Chukwuemeka’s sponsors, are going to take an important step in composing Chukwuemeka’s lifesong and establishing to whom it will be sung. They will be answering Jesus’ question by saying who Jesus is: they will say Jesus is their Saviour and Lord. And we will join them in saying that Jesus is the Son of God and the good news of God.

Felix and Jackie will be saying, let Chukwuemeka’s lifesong sing to you, Lord Jesus. We want to sign your Name to our son.

It is also fitting that on this, Ministry Fair Sunday, Felix and Jackie are formally announcing that from this day, their parenting of Chukwuemeka will be a ministry. From this day, how they raise Chukwuemeka will be a way of saying who Jesus is to Emeka and to those who see them in action as parents. They will be denying themselvesfor the sake of Emeka—most parents do this out of instinct and love for their children anyway—but by doing what they have come here to do today, Felix and Jackie are making a public statement that they intend to do it in Jesus name. They will be taking up the cross of parenthood in the name of Jesus and in doing so they will be following Jesus and teaching Emeka to do the same.

It’s Ministry Fair Sunday…an opportunity to sign-up for something new…to try something…or to sign-off from something you’ve tried…take a break…try something new. We have some serious needs…particularly in our Children’s and Youth ministry areas. I think we’re at the point where we have to pay some serious attention to some building issues, too.

Ministry is service. Ministry is an opportunity to say who Jesus is by our actions. Ministry is what keeps this little branch of the Body of the Risen Jesus going. Signing up for ministry will, most probably mean denying ourselves in some way so that we can contribute to the way and how effectively our parish says who Jesus is. We may have to deny ourselves some evenings of television, some Saturday mornings, doing what we want to do. But Jesus says if we want to go after Him, we have to do that. Deny ourselves, take up our crosses (act sacrificially) and follow Him. There is a gym full of ways to do that waiting for us after this service. The ministries in the gym aren’t the only ministries there are…they’re the ones we do just now. Just think about it this morning and remember that you’re only signing up for a year—not necessarily for the rest of your life—there will be an opportunity to sign-off next year.

Chukwaemeka is about to be baptized. Baptism was the beginning of Jesus’ ministry…his service. Baptism ought to have been the beginning of ours, too.

Which brings me back to the original question…the one Jesus put to the disciples. Who do you say I am? the way you live…the way you dress…by the way you treat people. Who does my husbanding say Jesus is to my wife? Who does my wifing say Jesus is to my husband? Who does my parenting say Jesus is to my children? Who does my work say Jesus is to my workmates and my employer? My customers? How does the way I live my life, spend my time and money say Jesus is to my friends? Does my life say Jesus at all, even quietly?

So, a question for a celebration of Holy Baptism on Ministry Fair Sunday; who does our contribution to the ministry of St Barnabas Church say Jesus is? Does it say He is our Lord, our Saviour, Son of God, good news of God? Or something less?

Let’s pray:

Lord Jesus, may our lifesongs sing to you (especially Felix and Jackie and Chukwuemeka from this day on). May our lifesongs sing to you as we answer your call to ministry in this congregation. We want to sign your name to our lives, relationships and ministries. Help us to keep our hearts true to You.
May the words we say / And the things we do / Make our lifesongs sing / Bring a smile to You.