Sunday 30 June 2024

Apostolic Faith of Baptism - Peter, Paul & Nyrah-Shea

Acts 12.1-11 ‘Now I know the Lord really did save me from Herod

2 Timothy 4.6-8; 17-18 All there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me

Matthew 16.13-19 You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church




Today we celebrate the Holy Apostles, Peter and Paul.


Peter: companion of the Lord, one of The Twelve, chosen by Christ to be the rock on which his Church is to be built.


Paul: persecutor of the Church who met the risen and ascended Lord on the road to Damascus and was commissioned to be an apostle to the Gentiles.


Together they were the ultimate witnesses as martyrs for the faith in the city of Rome.


And also, today, we baptise Nyrah-Shea: known, named and loved by the Lord and today to become part of the Church, to be adopted as a Child of God.


What is this Church into which she is to be baptised?


The Church is the body of believers who call upon God as Father by living out the life of Jesus Christ, receiving him in the sacraments and scriptures, all empowered by the Holy Spirit.


The Church is the body of witness to the resurrection of Christ.


The Church is the divine body of Christ into which we are grafted, receiving the lifeblood of Christ through his beating, Sacred Heart of Love.


This Church is called into existence by Christ and he chose Peter, dear Peter, who shows the human flaws we all have: he wavers; flip-flops; misunderstands; is crass; disappoints; denies.


And yet Peter is desperate to be the person Christ saw in him, the true Peter, the essential Peter.


Our life in the Church should be that journey of discovery, with our companions in faith, of who we really are called to be:


living lives directed to God’s glory not our own glorification and gratification;


cherishing God’s love for us, not assuming we’re rivals with others in the Lord’s affections, but one in him;


presenting our bodies, ‘as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is [our] spiritual worship’…not confirmed to this world, but transformed by the renewal of our minds to discern the will of God (Romans 12.1,2)


What an invitation: an enduring invitation!


I hope those of us who are long in the faith, who may be jaded, tired or switching off may be re-kindled in the vision set before us.


We owe it to ourselves, one another – to Jesus Christ! – to be renewed, day by day by day, in response to that invitation.


Nyrah-Shea joins us as fellow pilgrims in the way, the truth and the life of Christ; a path first walked by the apostles, trodden by saints throughout ages and the path we, in our day, navigate and explore.


It is an invitation to each and every person to consider the question that lies at the heart of being a Christian, when Christ asks you, ‘who do you say that I am?’


We know Peter’s answer, ‘you are the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the Living God’.


Like Peter, we are blessed when that is our response: that confession of faith which forms the foundational rock of the Church, embodied in Peter.


The questions put to those being baptised – infants through their godparents, and adults for themselves – ask the same thing: ‘who do you say that I am?’


A baptism is a chance for each one of us to be renewed, refreshed in our response to Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God.


As we answer, we might also consider Jesus’ question the other way round: who does Jesus Christ say that you are?


He could have looked at Peter and said, ‘he’s not up to it. Peter’s no rock, he’s too flaky. I can’t build my Church on someone like that.’


He could have looked at Paul and said, ‘this man is murdering my followers, injuring my body. He wants to destroy what I died for’.


But no. Christ saw in them the potential and possibility of being witnesses to the ends of the earth, through the generations, to establish, build and feed the Church in Christ’s name.


Who does Jesus Christ say Nyrah-Shea is? Who does he say you are?


He says, in the prophet Isaiah’s words, ‘you are precious in my eyes, and honoured, and I love you’ (Isaiah 43.4)


You may hear it said, ‘no one is indispensable’, in other words no one is really needed, known, loved, no one really has a place: they can be disposed of, discarded.


Those are the values of the world.


What the feast of Peter and Paul, what the baptism of a new Christian, what every moment of receiving Holy Communion tells us is that, in Christ, no one is dispensable, disposable: Christ does not chuck you away, even if you can’t (yet) discern where you fit in.


Flaky Peter, driven Paul, little Nyrah-Shea, you and me, we all have a place in the life of the Church.


Even if we’re not called to be the rock like Peter, the missionary and sower of churches like Paul, we are called to grow in the image and likeness of Christ, to know ourselves to be ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven and proclaim the source of that life by our testimony and witness in all we think and speak and do.


What we see in the scriptures and history of the Church is that for God no one is dispensable: each person is cherished and valued because God made us, knows us by name and sent his Son to die for our sins to save our souls.


Today Nyrah-Shea finds that her place is in the life of Christ, in his Church.


Today we all are renewed in our hope in the faith once proclaimed by the Apostles and received through the ages.


Today let us savour the beauty of Christ’s Church, rejoice in the truth of our profession of faith and show the goodness of God, patiently, day by day by day.


And may the Holy Apostles pray for us to the Lord in all our endeavours.

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