Baptism – why bother?

I want to begin by telling you a secret that churches never tell.  This is it ….  ‘God doesn’t love Christians more than God loves any one else.’ God doesn’t love Christians more than muslims, or more than hindus….   God doesn’t even love Christians more than atheists – and they don’t even believe he exists. Being and atheist doesn’t make God love you less  – and being a Christian doesn’t make God love you any more than anyone else.  So God loved Leo 100% before he was baptised and God loves 100% Leo after he’s baptised.  That’s just the way it is ….  we Christians have to get over it.

So  – you might ask  –  what’s the point? Why bother?  Let me try to explain..    Let me introduce you to mum and dad and their little kid.   You can imagine anyone you like …  it doesn’t have to be Katie and Tom and Leo –  it could you you yourself.  Mum and Dad are a really good mum and dad.  They want to do what is best for their kid – they want to bring them up to be happy, self-confident, intelligent, thoughtful and successful – in whatever way they understand that.  They are going to teach their little treasure how to do things, how to enjoy things, but also how to treat other people so that they don’t rip out the hair of the other children in play  group or steal everyone else’s toys.  They’re going to teach them how to speak and how to express themselves and they’re going to teach them how to live and work in society.   I think our imaginary mum and dad will probably dream of their little one settling down with a person of their choice in a happy and loving relationship and they probably, somewhere in the back of their mind have a dream of grandchildren… They may of course have other dreams,  but they will have dreams.

In a nutshell mum and dad love their little bundle of kid.  Now let’s just imagine it doesn’t quite work out like that.   Let’s imagine that sometimes they do pull the hair of the other children – and sometimes even bite them – that’s very naughty.   Let’s imagine that they don’t like sharing their toys – and let’s imagine as time goes on that they become difficult teenagers – get drunk, pass out, stay in bed all day and don’t do any work, play video games 10 hours a day

and eventually fall in love with a whole string of unsuitable people and blame mum and dad for everything –  sort of normal teenage behaviour.  My guess is that mum and dad will be frustrated, a bit annoyed … but they still love their child just as much.  That’s what mums and dads do,. They would still do anything to help them. This is where what I call ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ comes in ……  As they grow up they need money for a deposit perhaps, or a bit of money to help with their student finances – or perhaps just for Mum and Dad to pay for them to go on an unsuitable holiday with their mates in Ibiza or a hen night in Prague.   Usually Mum and Dad cough up –  that’s the way of things.

Now here’s the sermon. God is a better mum and dad than any earthly mum and dad.   God is kinder than we are, more forgiving than we are – and just all round better than we are.  If God is not better than us – then we might as well worship ourselves instead. So Imagine your perfect mum and dad and then times it by 10 and you get something like God.  – infinite patience, infinite wisdom, infinite bank-account and above all infinite love. .. . that’s God.

So it really doesn’t matter what we do, or say, or believe or who we are – it won’t stop God – the perfect mum and dad – loving us.   …..   ever.   

Just as we don’t actually earn the love from our real mums and dads – we just get it because we were born.   So we don’t actually earn the love from God

– we just get it because we were created.  That’s how it is.

However …..The grumpy teenager who gets drunk all the time, wastes their lives, mixes with the wrong people, and generally screws everything up and only ever comes home to borrow more money is a bit of a bum – as they say. In the end Mum and Dad are right and all those rules about keeping themselves safe, doing their piano practice and homework, working hard for their dreams are right.  They know what they are talking about … and yet if their little precious treasure make mistakes they are always ready to try to help to sort it out and get back on course. .. somehow. So, I think, God looks at the world and simply says … I have done all I can to try to teach people how to live ….  kindness, forgiveness, thankfulness, simplicity, sharing, loving –  these are the ways to make your world a happy place. I’ve sent prophets and teachers, gurus and saints, bibles and scripture, even Jesus – and It really is as easy as that. I think God says I just wish you could actually do what I say a bit better – for your own good.

But ….  why be baptised? Because in the end the big picture is always much bigger than our earthly mum and dad and we all have to be pushed a bit to see it.  

However much we want to talk about family, and the importance of family – and all sticking together for one another …  the big picture is bigger

 – we are all of us in a bigger family – like it or not – the whole human family.   Mum and dad Smith can get their kids and grandparents round for a lovely birthday party and feel good that they are all together – and that is right …. but the next door neighbours do exist – and if they are having a rave in their garden at the same time it causes friction. Because there is more to relationships and more to human life than family – or friends – or neighbours – or even countries and races and nations.   That is one of the reasons Christians have baptism.   When we are born,    we are born into a blood family  – that’s quite easy – but when we are baptised we are reminded that we belong to much bigger family that covers the whole world.    

 and It’s not a very comfortable thought, –  we probably all prefer to keep to ourselves and think that we can just be ‘our’ family …. but we can’t – we are called to love everyone, just as God loves everyone.  And let me tell you from a life times experiene that loving everyone is a very hard challenge indeed and we need all the divine help we can get!

The Very Rev’d Paul Kennington