Preacher: Catherine Staziker, Cathedral Reader (2006-2010)
25 November 2007, 10:30 (Christ the King)
Jeremiah 23: 1-6, Luke 23: 33 – 43 (Lit Yr C)
I wonder how many important certificates you have filed away safely somewhere? Can you even remember where? We all go through life collecting certificates and badges.
No sooner have we been born that our parents have to register our existence and claim a birth certificate. As we get older, we get certificates to prove that we’ve reached grade 1 on the tuba, we’ve had immunisations managed to swim twenty lengths, or passed exams, with grades for better or for worse!
If we marry, we sign registers and are given a certificate after the service. We get certificates if we act as God parents. We gain qualifications relating to our work, to our leisure.
Certificates don’t end there, either! On our death, certificates are produced to show for certain that we are no longer around! Badges however are usually different. We wear them to show that we are members of something, or that we feel strongly for a cause to which we lend our support. From school crests on blazers and sweatshirts, bracelets, poppies, ribbons or chains of office, Badges say something about who we are and with whom we belong.
At our Baptism we are also given a certificate. This generally looks quite attractive and since we never know when we might need it, it usually gets filed away with our other important documents.
And therein lies the problem.
For centuries, we, as members of the Church, have consigned our Baptisms to an event in the past. Filing away any significance, along with the certificate we were given on the day. We look back and we say we WERE baptised, remembering the event (if we were old enough at the time) or recalling the stories we have been told about it, as we flick through the fading photographs.
Baptism though really warrants a badge
rather than a certificate. The badge we wear should announce to all who see it that we belong to Christ and to his Church, and that we have certain characteristics common to the baptised community of faith.
It is not only that we have BEEN baptised, but that we ARE baptised. Baptism shapes us and goes on shaping us throughout our lives, as we grow in our discipleship and live out our calling to be followers of Jesus Christ. Living out our Baptism is every bit as important as the fact that we were baptised in the first place. Baptism is both the mark of God’s ownership and the sign of our calling. Baptism is the seal which marks out who we are from the day of our Baptism, right to the end, the Alpha and the Omega.
‘In my beginning is my end’i wrote T S Eliot and
We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive at where we started And know the place for the first time.
Called to be shepherds and care for the sheep, to seek and proclaim God’s presence in a disillusioned world;
We the baptised are called to help shape and guide the community of God.
We are called to draw the best from each other, to acknowledge each others unique gifts and talents in order to bring about the Kingdom of God, over which Christ the King reigns. His kingship and his kingdom is not like earthly ones.
Jeremiah prophesies the coming of this King, the righteous one, the one who will reign over the people of God
In our Gospel, we then see the crucifixion of that righteous King, the Son of God, the King of the Jews; abuse and humiliation: criminals, condemnation, crucifixion, nakedness, scoffing, mocking, taunting, deriding, reviling, sneering. Probably not our vision of Kingship.
When George VI died the cry went out: "The King is dead, long live the Queen." Not so with God’s kingship: "the King is dead, the King is raised from death and reigns." In Jesus Christ, God fulfilled his promise to the people in Jeremiah and to us.
In Baptism we are called to bring about the reign of Christ the King on earth.That is our vocation and Baptisms such as today’s, give us, the baptised, the opportunity to reflect on this and what that means and should mean for each of us. and for those who are not baptised, an opportunity to experience and explore what it could and might mean.
What we are often missing in our lives is that sense of vocation. Not just having a job, but answering a specific call, doing what we are meant to do, becoming who we are meant to be. It means participating in the work of God. To think that this is the preserve of the clergy, misses the ancient vision of the Church as a priestly people – set apart for ministry in Baptism, confirmed and strengthened in worship, made manifest in service to the world. We are all called to engage in full-time ministry, it’s just we’re not all called to make our livings in ministry.
There is a clear distinction between our Christian’s vocation and our office, ie what we do for a living. Whether we are teachers, shopkeepers, homemakers, artists, doctors, or priests,
none is any dearer to God than the other. Our mutual vocation (through our Baptism) is to serve God through whatever we do. To be God’s person in the world. Our Baptisms are our ordinations, the moment at which we receive the cross on our foreheads, sets us apart as God’s people to share Christ’s ministry; we are marked as Christ’s own forever.
I wonder how it would be if the cross made on our foreheads at our Baptism was made with permanent inkii, perhaps a nice deep purple, rather than with oil (or for some of us water)?? We would then bear Christ’s mark openly, visibly, for the rest of our lives!
Those who are ordained (wearing collars) consent to be visible in a way the baptised do not. They agree to let people look at them as they struggle with their own Baptismal vows; to continue apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to resist evil, to proclaim the good news of God in Christ, to seek and serve Christ in all persons, to strive for justice and peace among all people. These are not the vows only of the ordained, but of the baptised.
So whether we are wearing dog collars, stewards’ collars, or Blue Peter badges, our vocation is the same by virtue of our Baptism. We are called to worship and serve God and ‘to proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ’. So as we go out from this service today, let us shine as lights in the world let us, in every aspect of our lives, show the face of Christ and see the face of Christ in others.
Our badges of Baptism are invisible but their true meaning can be made visible.
strengthen all Christian people by your Holy Spirit
that we may live as a royal priesthood and a holy nation
to the praise of Christ Jesus our Saviour.
That we may be transformed into
the likeness of Christ our King, and
Shine as a light in the world to the glory of God the Father.”
i T.S. Eliot: Four Quartets
ii Barbara Brown-Taylor: The Preaching Life