..feast of Our Lord’s Baptism ..born a Jew, baptised a Christian.. ..he was brought up in a Jewish family, as a practising orthodox Jew; 30yrs later baptised into a new faith which grew out of its Jewish roots, an increasingly radical Jesus in a sect soon to be called Christianity.. today a moment to acknowledge & celebrate the Sacrament of belonging..his belonging & our belonging in the Christian community..a community growing out of conformity into radicalism..
in 1st rdg God initiates prophet Isaiah into service & stewardship; words promises & resolutions that fit well to us & our journey into full belonging..
“..I have called you to serve the cause of right..” ..to serve rather than control.. ; Lord have mercy “..to open the eyes of the blind..” ..those who can’t see the wood for the trees.. ; Christ have mercy “..to free captives from prison..” to unlock my hardness of heart which restricts & imprisons my loved ones instead of releasing & inspiring them.. ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
“God doesn’t have any favourites; anybody of any nationality who fears [loves] God & does what is right is acceptable to him.” to the independently proud among us, who feel they are steadily earning their own way to the kingdom, & with the new year resolution to try even harder at it in 2020, this truth could be deflating, thinking my efforts to be good & to do good would have gained me some notable & praiseworthy traction on my journey through this veil of tears, & some bonus nectar points on my spiritual plastic card which, when scanned at the entrance to heaven, will trigger word “valid” & the automatic invitation to press green button labelled “enter” & deservedly so..& when we emerge into heaven, we will discover, with some surprise, many many others, our fellow favourites, who got there by a different route, unmerited out of merciful love & compassion from a Father 42 times more loving & understanding than the father of the prodigal son/daughter ..we are, each & all of us, on a journey to heaven..promised..a life’s journey in footsteps of Jesus Christ..we the equivalent of the chosen people of Israel ; they our forbears, our God-parents; to them, & to us, he brings good news; where John the Baptist preached a radically different message of repentance, the means through which the dross failure & goats among us remorsefully find their way home, immersed & washed clean in waters of baptism..& Jesus Christ who initiated the fullness of it; a truth preached taught believed in & lived, because “God was with him” & “God is with us” Emmanuel..remember?..that Christmas moment when you paused slowed down & allowed your heart to beat in unison with the divine heartbeat & the infant was born into your heart..remember?..”Lord what must I do to inherit eternal life?”asked rich young man..“go sell all you own, give it to the poor, them come follow me”get into a heartbeat relationship with me & you & I together, you & the infant Jesus, can recreate this privileged protected valley of ours..stir up the deep still & stagnant waters, so that, when/if..one of you notices the cripple the lame the blind, the drug/work/drink addict, you can represent Christ, heartbeat to heartbeat & ask “do you want to be well again?” & the addict says despondently “I have no one to put me into the pool when water is disturbed, & while I am still on the way, someone gets there before me.”..I worry for the fit eager early bird who has that sixth sense to plan ahead, who wants a family baptism on Sat 12 Sept 2020 who want date booked in parish diary now, who keen & eager want full preparation course..five god-parents 58 guests & a meal at a local hostelry afterwards..& two weekends after the baptism is the last time we see them..until next baby or a family wedding..& when, not if, we arrive at gate of heaven expectantly, Jesus may well ask us gently.”& where are family you welcomed..bambino parents five god-parents 58 guests & staff of White Swan, where are they now?.. the kingdom of heaven is one of parity of esteem..where boy mole fox horse are welcomed in together..one bread one body one baptism one heartbeat..”this is my Son” daughter wife god-parent waitress “the beloved; my favour rests on them”..so when they drift away from this pool remember the magi..follow their star their postcode & take them the gift of all gifts..gold of your love; frankincense of your prayers ; the myrrh, ointment of healing of a welcome home to this stable to die for..to live for & to die for among us..the saving grace of our baptism our belonging here; & no concessions..if your heartbeat is in unison with this parish family heartbeat, you belong here..promised guaranteed & to be enjoyed..
as our Christmas season ends this evening there’s no better way to celebrate our unity & belonging here than to look back at the moments when Gods favour rested on us..in Advent & this Christmas season; ”I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.” ”& the angel waited, breathing time. We must breathe time as fish breathe water..patiently breathe Christmas to life” ”there is in the heart of us all some image of the Beloved which we must not merely acknowledge but know love & embrace; without this marriage there can be no real human life.” ”it is the one & only saving qualification for gaining entry to our eventual home in heaven..we arrive together..with your DNA & mine on the straw”.. ”go home, chew through the snare, & love your boy your mole your fox & your horse..& give them cake””..a New Years resolution I would suggest..to leave your gruffiti..not graffiti but gruffiti..in waste bin at back of Church & go home to enjoy gossiping” ..& finally a question I put to KS2 at our Epiphany Mass here on Wednesday..”if you had to choose to be the star to lead the wise men to the manger, or to be the camel to carry them to the stable, which would you want to be?.. & why?” ..if you, in your infirmity, need someone to lift you into the pool next time this pool is disturbed out of its stillness, my advice would be to keep close to St Benedict’s Primary School, who breathe faith as fish breathe water.. [the Baptism of the Lord YrA Mt 3;3-17]