Sunday, 21 October 2018

Two fonts, two children,
and Baptism in Askeaton

The Baptism font in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick

Sunday 21 October 2018

2.30 p.m., Holy Baptism.

Readings:
Acts 9: 1-20; Matthew 28: 16-20.

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Baptism is a family event, and how wonderful it is that two first cousins, Beatrice and Chloe, are being baptised together, in the same church, on the same day.

You may have noticed on your way in here this afternoon that we have two fonts here in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeston.

No, we are not planning to use one font for each baptism, one for each child. One font is an old, historical font, moved into the porch many years ago from the church in Shanagolden, close to the Langford family home. The other, the one we are using for this afternoon’s Baptism, is just inside the Church door.

The position of both these fonts is important. They are not there by accident, or for convenience, as though the back of the church is a good place to store them when they are not in use.

As we come into Church, they are reminders in that position that Baptism is our entry into the Church.

Baptism is not a naming ceremony. Beatrice and Chloe are already well-known by the names their parents have given them. Nor is it a ceremony of welcome into the family. Chloe and Beatrice are well-loved for many months now in a wider circle family and friends.

Baptism is our entrance into the Church, we are incorporated into the Body of Christ. That is why the font is at the point where people enter the church, where people are welcomed into the Church.

There are eight sides to this font, reminding us of the family of Noah, all eight of them, who were saved from the waters of the flood in the ark. They were not a select group but represent the whole of humanity.

Sometimes, the inside of a church looks like an up-turned boat, the inside of an ark. That is why this part of the church is called the nave. In Baptism, we are all in the one boat together, we are all formed into one new extended family, we are all in this together, equals because we are one in Christ.

In the waters of Baptism, we are saved by being incorporated into the Body of Christ. We are in Christ, and Christ is in us.

Think of how the waters of creation are at the beginning of the Creation story; the slaves are brought from slavery to freedom through the waters of the Red Sea; Christ lets the Samaritan woman at the well know that he is the Living Water – as the lettering in the Sanctuary remind us, he is the Fountain of Life.

Water pours from his side at the Crucifixion, at the end of his Passion. And the Disciples know he is Risen when they met him in the morning by the waters of the lake.

With his baptism, Saul becomes Paul, in our very dramatic reading from the Acts of the Apostles. He moves from breathing threats and murder, to becoming a great Apostle himself.

He moves from his old ways of hatred and violence to proclaiming, not once, not twice, but on three occasions:

‘… for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law’ (Romans 13: 9); ‘love is the fulfilling of the law’ (Romans 13: 10); and, ‘For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”’ (Galatian 5: 14).

There is one water of Baptism. And, in time, when Beatrice and Chloe come to receive Holy Communion, they will be showing how they are part of this Body of Christ, this one family, and sharing in its mission into the wide, wonderful, beautiful world out there.

And so, as members of the Body of Christ, we share the water of the Baptism of Chloe and Beatrice, and we must keep them in our prayers constantly after this day.

To paraphrase the words of the Post-Communion Prayer today, we pray:

Father of light,
in whom is no change or shadow of turning,
you give us every good and perfect gift
and have brought us to birth by your word of truth.
May Beatrice and Chloe – and all of us – be a living sign of that kingdom,
where your whole creation will be made perfect
in Jesus Christ our Lord.

And so may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

The Collect:

Merciful Lord,
Grant to your faithful people pardon and peace,
that we may be cleansed from all our sins
and serve you with a quiet mind;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Hymns:

658, One more step along the world I go (CD 38).
25, All things bright and beautiful (CD 2).

Acts 9: 1-20:

1 Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5 He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. 8 Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

10 Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; 16 I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, 20 and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”

Matthew 28:16-20:

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

‘With thee is the fountain of life’ … a panel in the sanctuary in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge, the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. This reflection was shared at a Baptism in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick, on Sunday 21 October 2018.

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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