Sunday, September 30, 2012

Homily for Pentecost 18

If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.

Stumbling blocks.

Something in the way, that will cause someone to fall, that will cause them trip and not be able to continue on their journey.
Somethi ng that will cause someone to stop where they are.
Something that will not only stop someone, but may well injure them.

 But the point that struck me today is about the stumbling blocks we place before others.

If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.

And with this I thought about baptism.

As you know, the way we go about baptism here has changed over the past 6 months.
The baptism now takes place within the eucharist, and we have a bunch of families here, with their friends, families, godparents all seated at the front.

But there are stumbling blocks aplenty within this.
We only baptise once a month. This can cause some to stumble.
We baptise in groups. This can cause some to stumble.
 We baptise within a full eucharist. This can cause some to stumble.

You see, the families that contact us for baptism do so for many reasons.
Sometimes it is because Great Aunty Doris wants it to happen, other times it is simply because it is the done thing.
And sometimes, it is done out of true desire to become members of the  body of Christ.

Who are we to make ANY of these people stumble?

What is going on within baptism families in terms of faith, God, baptism is really between them and God.  We have no idea how that might look or feel for them. And we cannot become a stumbling block in this earliest stage of their journey.

But what of what happens when they are here at 9:30, sitting in the front seats, waiting.

What stumbling blocks do we have here that could cause them to stumble, even at this stage?

We will all have our own ideas about how we could make the service more baptism family friendly.

Think of it like this.

Lets say I have decided to watch the grand final later today.

I don’t know a thing about rugby league, but you do, and you have been waiting for me to say I want to get into the footie.

What would you do to make me enjoy watching the game?
You would explain the basic rules,
tell me about the teams,
tell me about the star players,
tell me about any rivalries there are.

You would explain all terms and jargon.

You would invite some other mates around to watch with us.
You’d make sure the tv was working, the sound system loud enough.
You’d make sure there were drinks and snacks.
You would maybe decorate the lounge in team colours.

You would also make sure I had a way of getting home safely, or offer me the couch to sleep on.

Basically, you would do as much as you could to make the day as enjoyable and meaningful as possible.

Now, think of baptism.

Do we do this?

Our baptism service can be a stumbling block to many.
And as a church we need to think of ways to reduce that.
We need to find ways of making the baptism a meaningful and spiritual experience for all who come to be a part of it.

At the moment it is almost like being taught the rules of AFL, but watching the NRL.

We can do this.
We can make baptism a beautiful experience for all involved, including ourselves.

But Jesus gives us a warning:

Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it?

Here Jesus warns us of not losing what it is that makes us Christians.
We are not to water down the gospel.
We are to remain true to the message of peace and love, and eternal life we find in Jesus Christ.
 If we lose that, we are like saltless salt.

So, this is where it stands. We are not to be stumbling blocks, and we aren’t to become saltless salt.

I leave you with this:
What can we do as a parish to make sure we do everything we can
to make baptism for those who know very little about what we do here,
the wonderful experience we know it is,
while at the same time keeping true to the gospel of peace and love, and life in the body of Christ?

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