Sermons from St Faith's
The Baptism of the Lord
Kelley, January 15th, 2012
of Baptismal Vows, Commitment to Mission and Launch of the
2012 St Faith's Stewardship Campaign
Each year at Patronal Festival time we sing at one of the liturgies
that marvellous hymn “In our day of thanksgiving”.
Fr. Colin Oxenforth wrote movingly about how singing that hymn last
October moved him to tears as he remembered various people who had
touched his life. ‘These stones that have echoed their praises are
holy’ ... And indeed they are. These stones carry memories of the
past and hopes for the future. St Faith’s represents over a century
of heritage and memories, and if we feel that we have a duty – or
just a strong desire – to be true to that heritage and to carry it
forward into the next century, there is no way this will happen
unless we dig deep into our pockets. We only need to look around us
to see that things cost and, increasingly, cost a lot!
We come to St Faith’s for many things, but the desire to ‘worship
the Lord in the beauty of holiness’ will be one of the most
important for most of us. We value the distinctive way we worship
the Lord in this place, but we realise that we have to make
sacrifices to continue to enjoy the privilege of doing so. Try going
to the opera or out for a decent meal without it costing you!
Nothing is cheap these days!
Of course, no Christian congregation is dependent on a fine building
and fine ritual: we could worship in a church hall or even meet in a
tent, a camp-style liturgy, but the style of worship and the beauty
of this building bring us closer to God and to each other – and for
that we wish to offer thanks.
what a wonderful show of volunteering ...
beautiful church, beautiful trees ... got
me started for Christmas ...
amazing seeing how people
help others ... very moving – gave me hope for others
... the spirit of Christmas so well presented
with many moving prayer messages
These are just a few comments from the 1,000 or so people who passed
through the doors of the church during the Tree Festival week. Oh,
and they praised the jam too!
Could the same appreciative comments have been made if we didn’t
have this building? Could lives have been touched in exactly the
One of the great strengths of SF is the commitment of many people in
terms not just of money but of time and talents. We are the envy of
many parish priests; some of my priest friends have to do the
flowers, act as caretaker, operate the karaoke machine for the hymns
and organise the coffee rota. I am very blessed indeed. But I will
say to our friend from Mirfield, please don’t think this parish is
the norm. When you are ordained, be prepared to do the flowers,
operate the karaoke machine and make the coffee!
So often we are acutely aware of what we don’t have. But let’s not
forget to be thankful for what we do have. And what we do have to be
thankful for is staring me right in the face. We need constantly to
cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
Our Stewardship Programme is more than just balancing the books
though. It is a chance for us to see just how much is done by so
many in the Lord’s name. And to thank the Lord for that dedication.
Today we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus – transferred from last
Sunday or Monday depending on which option you prefer. We’ve moved
from thinking of a tiny helpless baby in a manger – though we still
have our reminder of that – to a man preparing to embark on a tough
three-year mission. At the end of which he won’t be greeted with a
fat cheque as a retirement bonus, but nails and a cross.
For Jesus, it all began with baptism. And so it does with us too.
Admittedly most of us were baptised when we were very young and
couldn’t actually speak for ourselves, but at our Confirmation we
confirmed that desire to follow Christ and serve Him in our world.
And if sacrifice was at the heart of Our Lord’s ministry, why should
it be any less for us?
Church on the cheap isn’t a church that is worth it! It is highly
fitting therefore that on the day when we recall the start of Our
Lord’s public ministry, we too commit ourselves to mission and
service. For ultimately a Stewardship campaign must never be
primarily about adding up the pounds, shillings and pence (that
shows my age) but responding to the privilege of being called to
love and serve the Lord in His world.
* Have you broken the pledges of your baptism and confirmation?
* Have you shown indifference to those in need?
* Have you spoken out for truth and justice?
* Have you been slow to forgive others?
These are questions asked of us in today’s liturgy. For this is the
day that the Lord has made. Today is our opportunity to pledge
ourselves once again to being radical disciples rather than passive
Most of us know only too well that there are those who would claim
that organised religion in general, and Christianity in particular,
have had their day. We can look at parts of our country and feel
aggrieved or saddened that buildings which once housed Christian
worship are now mosques or temples. But very often that is the
fault, not of people of other faiths, but of Christians who have
made an adult, conscious decision to put the worship of Almighty God
way down on their list of priorities.
Yes, church attendance nationally might be on the decline, but each
one of us can do something to reverse that trend when we are
prepared to stand up and be counted as Christians. Not armchair
Christians who simply turn up when it suits them, occasionally
giving a few pence if we have any lose change. Is God worth so very
little to some? The Christian heritage passed down to us through the
centuries was built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.
An apostle is one who is sent. Today the Lord is sending you and me
into the battleground. We are the apostles and prophets of the 21st
century Church. The spiritual battleground is where we are called to
be in order to win souls for Christ.
And here in this place we have a spiritual focus where each one of
us can be strengthened in our work of showing the care, the love and
the compassion of Christ to everyone we encounter.
“These stones that have echoed their praises are holy” That might be
said, or sung, of us one day!
The task is awesome and it is a great privilege. As we renew our
baptismal promises today, may God strengthen us for the task that
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