Rev’d Jonathan Gale – Baptism and Dedication Service
Two things stand out in today’s readings:
- Paul says what I want to do – the good, that is – I just can’t seem to sustain. Try as I may, I muck things up.
- Jesus says, I can’t seem to win – it’s a generation that simply doesn’t respond to the good God wants for them.
We experience this as parents – a sense that we let ourselves and others down. We feel this especially keenly with our children. Particularly when they don’t seem to respond to the good we have for them.
There are guidelines that we can follow – Bring up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22: 6). Well, hopefully we follow them
But the truth is our children become, not what we say, but what we are.
You know the old saying, “What you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear a word you’re saying.”
On another level, our children all have different characters and personalities and seem predetermined to be a certain way no matter what we do. In the nature/nurture debate nature seems to have the upper hand at the moment so you can blame your failings on your parents.
Just joking of course! The prophets were pretty straight on personal accountability for our lives. “In those days people will no longer say, ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” Jeremiah tells us. (Jeremiah 31: 29)
So parenting is a tough ask.
In baptism of course we undergo a ceremony (a sacrament really) where both we (on behalf of our children) and God, do something. We make a commitment. It’s a commitment that signals a definite aligning ourselves with God. It symbolises the burial of the kind of life that leads away from God and receiving a power to assist in a life that is not simply a constant struggle between right and wrong action, as Paul describes in our reading this morning. Because we only struggle when we try on our own.
When we dedicate a child to God, we hand the child over to God and commit ourselves to bringing him up in the ways of God.
Jesus in the Gospel reading implies that we are going to be wearied if we continue in our own strength. 29Take my yoke upon you, he says, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’
It’s not the life that is easy. It’s the yoke that is easy. God never promised anyone an easy life. He promises to be with us in it, and when we are yoked to him his love gives us the strength to make it through well – as long as we remain yoked.
There’s one more thing: Jesus says this: 25 At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank* you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.
Jesus is not speaking about actual infants of course – rather about having a child-like faith, something he’s very explicit about elsewhere, and in this instance, about trusting God for your children.
What I encourage you to do, Daniel & Lucy as parents of Archer, and you, Scott & Donna as parents of Jackson and Oliver; is look for the revelation of God in your boys. They’re bursting with it and you don’t have to look hard. Sometimes you’ll think they’re revealing anything but God, but the pure love they have for you, is nothing short of the love that God has planted within them. It’s both your privilege and your duty to return that love in abundance – and most importantly with consistency – as you look to God for guidance.
So in summary, success as a parent providing spiritual guidance to your children, lies in remaining yoked to (in relationship with) Jesus.
May God bless you in the commitments you’ve made today. And as I said earlier in ending the ceremony: May God bless you with his wisdom and love. May Archer, Jackson and Oliver find in you, your homes and families, Christ’s love and understanding.
Scripture references for today:
Genesis 24: 34 – 38, 42 – 49, 58 – 67; Romans 7: 15-25a; Matthew 11: 16 – 19, 25 – 30