Sermon for Evensong & Benediction Baptism of Christ Sunday 13 January 2019
Preached by Fr Simon Cuff
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy? Words from the prophecy of Isaiah, the 55th chapter, the second verse.
May I speak in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Christmas Day already seems a long way away. The world has moved on. Supermarkets have started selling Easter Eggs. Meanwhile, in the Church, our celebration of Christmas can continue until Candlemas, with the disciplines of Lent still between us and the Easter eggs the supermarkets are encouraging us to eat.
Almost three weeks ago, if we were fortunate, we ate too much, possibly drank too much, and probably bought and received too many things that failed to deliver on the promise of eternal happiness suggested to us in the advertisement.
The vacuum cleaner which promised to transform our home; the television which promised to deliver the actors into our front rooms as if they were our closest friends; the coffee maker that promises to make coffee that tastes as sweet as the elixir of life.
Having excitingly unwrapped the promised bearers of delight, what do we find two weeks later? Our carpet is just as dirty; television just as rubbish; and our coffee tastes much the same – even if takes twice as long to make.
‘Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy?’
Our readings this evening cut through the noises of fleeting happiness falsely promised by the world around us.
In our first reading, Isaiah offers a vision of the abundant life offered to us by God, which we celebrate each and every day in this place, and in every Church.
‘Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters, and you that have no money, come, buy and eat!’
No matter who we are, how much money we have or don’t have; the invitation is the same. Come into real life lived with God. Come into that real life, where we are defined not by what we achieve, or how much we earn, or which products we surround ourselves with. Come into that real life, where we are defined simply by who God is calling us to be, where we are living the life God intended for us, that life which God granted to us as a free gift; that life which God shared with us by becoming one of us.
‘Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.’
How do we enjoy this life today?
‘Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live.’
By coming into his presence, by coming into hearing distance, we hear the whisper of God’s presence in our lives, that still small voice of God calling us to himself. By adoring his presence in the Sacrament, by dwelling on his word, by offering ourselves to him in prayer.
‘Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near’.
The world outside with its adverts and January Easter eggs might not have a clue what we’re up to as we seek that real and abundant life with God. Discerning that whisper of God’s call in our lives might draw us out of step with the rhythm of that world. His thoughts are not our thoughts, his ways are not our ways, as Isaiah reminds us.
Discerning the whisper of God’s call is hard enough amidst the noise and cacophony of voices of the world around us.
Sharing that whisper with others is even harder, but is essential if we are to share this abundant real life with others.
Inviting those around us to this rich feast, so that they too may share in the life given to us by God. So that they too may share in Christ’s death and resurrection through Baptism. Just as we did in our Baptism. As St Paul reminded us in our reading from Romans: when we were ‘buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.’
The Baptism of Christ we commemorate today celebrates Christ setting aside water for its sacred purpose, to be the means by which we begin our new and real life in God. As we die with Christ in the waters of the font, so the new and abundant life is opened for us in Christ.
It is this life we celebrate in this place, this life that God is calling us to even now, and this life we are called to share with others. So that they too may discern the whisper of God’s voices amidst the noises of the world, so that they too may share in the abundance of Christ’s risen life, our true and real life, and leave aside the fleeting promises of happiness made to us by the world.
‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.’
As the Sacrament is exposed on the altar, we gaze into the presence of the life God sets before us. We adore this life, the life of Christ offered to us now, the life to which all of us are invited each and every day.
‘Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters’; rejoice in that life given in the waters of baptism, enjoy the fullness of that life lived with God, celebrate the abundance of life in Christ, available to us even today.
‘Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters’. Come into that abundant risen life of Christ that God intends for each of us today.