Fr Peter Beck preached and presided and preached at the 11am mass, which included the baptism of Raina Judkins. The Gospel reading was Luke 11:1-13.
Read on for the sermon and a video of the service.
Raina, I’m delighted to welcome you with your mum and dad, your god parents to be and your family and friends for this very special day in your life.
What on earth are they doing bringing you here at 7 month old to be joined up with this rather odd organisation, the Church? Well, what I reckon is this. Your mum and dad want to do the very best for you. They love you. They know they have the huge responsibility as parents of helping you to grow into the person you can be. They want you to be associated with all that makes for goodness, kindness, love, compassion, care for others and for those who you love and will love. I reckon they want you to have a full and happy life, with all that you need to make the best decisions for the good of all in the wonderful and challenging world we live in.
And with all its fault and failings, they have brought you here because they think the Church still stands for a way of life that is worthwhile. Raina, in Micah’s book in the Old Testament, the prophet says – ‘this is what the God requires of you – ‘that you do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with you God’. And there is a prayer which I often use which kind of sums up what we as the Church are to be:
Give us O God a vision of our world as your live would have it be. A world where the weak are protected and none go hungry or poor; a world where the benefits and blessings of life are shared so that everyone can enjoy them; a world where people of different race. gender, colour, sexual orientation, the whole kaleidoscope of humanity are each treated with dignity and respect; a world where the earth is cared for and stewarded, a world where peace is built on justice and justice is guided by love. And give us the courage, the inspiration and the perseverance to build such a world.
In the rather scary world that we live in these days, this prayer is a bold statement of our vision and purpose. It is what we are to do and be as Christ’s church, everywhere and for us here at St Michael’s in the heart of our city I reckon that’s a very good reason for bringing Raina here to join this community.
And of course at the heart of this community, of the Church, is our belief in Love as the life force of the universe. God is love, and it is in the Love we say that we all live and move and have our being. We are embraced and immersed in this Love all the time, though too often I forget and need to remind myself (you know – do this to remember, because I keep forgetting??) And what does that love like? Well we see what that love looks like in Jesus Christ. We are called to followers of him and to follow his example.
And we believe that love is stronger than hate, and that life is stronger than death, all kinds of death. In a few minutes Raina, I will ask your mum and dad and your god parents this question – ‘Do you renounce evil and put your trust in God?’ and they will reply ‘through the grace of Jesus Christ I do’. I think another way of asking this question is – do you believe that life is stronger than death and love is stronger than hate.’ And they say – YES.
And then we will pray. We Christians do a lot of praying. Actually people of all faiths and none do a lot of praying, asking for all they need to deal with the love, the joys and the pains and anxieties of life, life’s vicissitudes for themselves and others.
You know prayer is a very great mystery. Well, God is a great mystery too of course. Our gospel reading tells us of Jesus teaching his disciples what we know as the Lord’s Prayer and he encourages them to be persistent in our prayers.
What are we doing when we pray? I believe it’s a lot more than giving God a kind of shopping lists of wants and desires. That’s OK in itself, but I think prayer is much more than that. To pray requires us to take time to seek to get on the right wave length with our God, with this divine love energy in which we live and move and have our being. When Gay and I were driving in the North Island a couple of weeks ago, I was doing battle with the radio receiver in the car trying to find the right wave band for the national programme that I wanted to listen to. You ever had that problem, where you kind of get it but not quite and have to keep fiddling with the knob until all being well it all comes together and you are at one with RNZ or whatever.
When I pray I seek to get on the right wave-length with God, with divine Love, to align my desire, my concerns, my hope and dreams, my fears and anxieties for those I pray for and for myself with the divine energy which is God. Another way of seeking to describe this is to think of the God in whom I live and move and have my being as a river of love flowing in and through me and the whole universe. When I pray, really pray, I want to be caught up and be part of that flow of love. To pray is to hold all my prayers in my heart before God and to wait on God, believing that love is active, that God is doing what God is doing, and that my prayers, faltering as they be, are flowing with that divine stream of love. And I pray your kingdom come, your will be done we pray.
I do encourage you to read the psalms – here are the honest prayers of the writers, laying their deepest concerns before the ultimate reality of life and love. The psalmist will rejoice and give thanks. The psalmist will pour out their distress and anxiety. The psalmist will complain and get angry with God, will lament and demand. And them the psalmist will as it were ‘come to him or herself’ and rest and wait on the divine presence, trusting that love is stronger than hate, life is stronger than death, and that all shall be well, though we may have no real understanding of how this will or can be. For this God of love is mystery which embraces us and which we embrace.
Today’s Gospel reading from Luke quotes Jesus encouraging us to persist in prayer. In my years of ministry I have regularly met lovely people who because of age or infirmity are no longer able to ‘DO’ as much as they used to in ministry. Some have told me that they feel a bit useless!
No way, is my response! You have the most important job of all - What you can do is to pray! And I share with them the names of people who are asking for prayer and the issues which they are facing. For people to know that others are holding them in their prayers is a beautiful thing. It is encouraging and reassuring. In this way we can align our care and compassion for the other with God’s, and pray that God’s will be done for the well-being of those we pray for.
Jesus said “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” He tells us to persist in prayer. As we hold our troubled world in prayer before God, let us focus on what requires our shameless persistence. And we can also ask ourselves what is happening in our lives that needs to change? What are we seeking? What are we hoping for? Jesus promises us that if we knock the door will be opened, but we might have to knock hard and often; we might have to ask others to join us. Jesus invites us to pray with the assurance that God is listening; and not only that, but God is acting on our behalf, ready to respond and to transform our lives and the world around us.
And if we have moments when we feel like our prayers are weak, or like we don’t know what to say or do, we can be like the disciples: “Lord, teach us to pray,” they asked him. Jesus stands ready not only to answer our prayers, but also to show us the way.
And now we are to baptise Raina and to hold her and her family in our hearts and prayers. Welcome to our whanau Raina. Hopefully in a few years’ time you will want to make these promises your own. Let us all turn to the font for her baptism