Baptism of our Lord, Sun 7 January 2018
Genesis 1.1-5, Ps 29, Acts 19.1-7, Mark 1.4-11
Preacher: Rev’d Wendy Morecroft
My favourite response after a baptism has always been when we as the Body of Christ say together, to the newly baptised children: Shine as a light in the world, To the glory of God the Father.
In fact, I found a similar quote this week by writer Madeleine L’Engel: “We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want to know with all their hearts, to know the source of it.”
Someone whom I consider is shining as a light to the world at the moment is Meghan Markle. She is getting a lot of press because she is a beautiful, rich and famous American TV and movie star who will marry Prince Harry in May.
But did you know that Meghan Markle is also the global ambassador for World Vision, and UN Womens’ Advocate for Political Participation and Leadership?
The thing that impresses me the most about her, is that she first became a women’s advocate at just 11 years of age. Speaking at the International Women’s Day Conference on 8 March 2015 in New York, she explained how at the age of 11 she “unknowingly and somehow accidentally became a female advocate.” She had been at school watching a TV commercial for dish washing liquid. “The tag line said, ‘Women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans’. Two boys from [her] class said, ‘Yeah, that’s where women belong, in the kitchen’.” She felt so shocked, hurt and angry that she went home and talked to her father who encouraged her to write letters. So she did, but she decided to write to powerful women.
She wrote to the then First Lady Hillary Clinton, the presenter of a kids news program, another to a “powerhouse attorney” and finally, she wrote to the soap manufacturer.
She said that she received letters of encouragement from all three women, the news program went to her home to cover her story, and a month later, she received a letter from the soap manufacturer saying that they had changed their tag line from “Women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans” to “People all over America”. She explained that “[i]t was at that moment that [she] realized the magnitude of [her] actions. At the age of eleven [she] had created [her] small level of impact by standing up for equality.”
Meghan Markle may be rich and famous, but she is just one of many in the world who is a shining light because she has been prepared to use her voice for justice.
What struck me most as I reflected on today’s readings is the number of times that God’s voice is mentioned, in Genesis, the Psalm and the Gospel. In Genesis 1:3 God said “Let there be light”; and there was light. Psalm 29 tells of the effectiveness of His voice in several different ways.
Then in the Gospel we heard God’s voice again when Jesus emerges from the waters of his baptism:‘You are my Son, the Beloved; With you I am well pleased. (Mark 1:4)
The other, important voice in today’s readings is that of John the Baptist. In Acts 19:4 Paul explains that John told the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is in Jesus. In the Gospel Mark 1:4 John the Baptist was proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins and in v8 he proclaimed: I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.
John the Baptist prepared the way for Christ by proclaiming him. The call of each of our baptisms is not only to shine as a light, it is as we also say together after each baptism: Confess Christ crucified, Proclaim his resurrection, Look for his coming glory.
As a typical child of the 60s, I was raised never to talk about religion or politics, but our world needs us to learn to be advocates for both. Watching an episode of Dr Who as he was visiting William Shakespeare this week, I was reminded of the power of our words. I think most of us would agree that Shakespeare used his words powerfully and effectively.
There are many opportunities for each of us to use effective words rather than succumbing to popular expressions. It seems common place these days to say “I’ll cross my fingers and toes”. How much more meaningful is it to say “I’ll pray for you” or “I’ll pray about” whatever it is we are hoping for.
I was recently on retreat and chatting with a lady I had met, about meditation. On the last day, we were chatting over the wall of our adjoining shower cubicles, and as I was washing my hair, I simply said “I have been praying for you.” There was complete silence. I didn’t think much more of it but she approached me as I finished drying my hair, and told me that she had seen a sign of the cross at the time I had said those words. She was ready to respond to God’s call in her life. It was a reminder to me of what God can do with our words when we prepare the way for him, when our words sew good seeds.
A couple of weeks ago Andrew and I had friends come to dinner and they were delighted that our daughter and her new-born twins and family had dropped in. One of our friends kept referring to our new grandsons as “little miracles”. How much more meaningful than using words like “amazing” or “wonderful”.
Henry and Elizabeth who are about to be baptised this morning are also God’s miracles. They are equal in God’s sight, they are both full of potential, they are each God’s beloved in whom God is well pleased. May Elizabeth and Henry together with all the baptised be raised to know a rich relationship with our Lord. May we each play our part in teaching them by our example, using our words to proclaim Christ and to shine as a light to the world to the glory of God the Father. Amen.