Sunday 9th January 2011
Covenant Service - New Year's Resolutions and Role Models
Scripture: Matthew 3:13-17
We’ve got people from quite a wide age range here with us today, we have the very young and the more mature folk worshipping under one roof. So especially to those of us with a few summers under our belts, who did you look up to when you were growing up?
We learn so much from other people, we look to them in the hope to see examples of what is possible with life. For those of us who grew up knowing we were different, we may not always have had many positive images to inspire us. I know that aside from a few camp presenters and sit com characters there weren’t folk I could look at and be inspired by the possibilities.
I was chatting to a friend’s daughter the other day, and she was telling me how someone at her school had come out as being gay. I was surprised by my own reaction of shock – and yet why shouldn’t this be the case? Thinking about the role models that teenagers would have now there are out rugby players and actors, musicians and TV presenters and I found myself almost feeling a twinge of jealousy thinking ‘ I wished I’d had that when I was younger’
Sometimes when I read scripture, I get a twinge of jealousy too, I wonder what it must have felt to be there as astonishing events unfolded, and today’s reading is one of them; we hear how Jesus made his way to the Jordan to be baptised. It wasn’t a private affair, John was baptising lots of folk and it makes me wonder just what that crowd felt like. These were adults, people who had made a decision to make a change in their lives. There were lots of them, inspired by the word and the teachings of John the Baptist, inspired that the lot they’d been dealt and the lives they experienced weren’t enough and they wanted to experience change.
John was a role model who had changed their lives by inspiring them to make changes in themselves.
To meet one person who could change and inspire them must have seemed astonishing, like a thirsty man in the desert suddenly finding water. But through the crowd came Jesus, everyone would have assumed that he was just another willing soul hungry for change.
John recognised him and was taken aback that Jesus approached him for baptism, knowing in his heart that Jesus was divine. But Jesus went into the water and God acknowledged his divine nature there. The fulfilment of prophesy was taking place in front of that crowd.
Suddenly there was not one role model there before them, there was another.
The prophet foretells of Jesus the messiah who would baptise all of us with the Holy Spirit. A gift that is available to all of us.
For even today, people are much the same, it’s not only when we are young that we look for role models, we carry on looking for them, we can be inspired and changed by people we meet and see regardless of their age and their experience. People haven’t changed that much, the crowd that witnessed events at the Jordan would have been full of many different people, parents hoping for the best for their children, strong willed women who were at the centre of communities, single men and outsiders, all of them hungry for something different. When we look out into the streets of our city, we see people who are hungry for the same.
For Jesus, his baptism was a defining moment, his life as recorded by scripture for the preceding years after his birth is a mystery to us save a sole incident when Joseph and Mary took him to the temple. Though we believe that he led a sinless life, he offered himself to baptism recognising that his life was about to change, a change we needed much more than he did.
Jesus example inspires each of us to examine our lives and ask ourselves what do we need to change.
Even if we can’t find much that we think is in need of amendment are we willing and able to submit ourselves to God’s will and calling.
Are we ready to change our habits because we feel that that is what the God of love wishes us to do?
In a world full of so many different people, are we prepared to stand up and be the role models that other people can be inspired by?
We live in uncertain times, as the country rides out of the end of a recession and stands braced to face the impact of cuts that will affect our lives in ways we can only speculate about. These are the sort of times where it can be natural to become inward looking, to think of ourselves more than others; but God calls us to be more generous when times are difficult, not less.
Each of us has something to give, we give of ourselves, even if we don’t consider ourselves to be wealthy or well off, we have time we can give, and our generosity may not affect our bank balance.
Is there a community project that could do with your help, is there a chance you could make it to one more church service a month, could we spend an evening helping out with a social justice campaign by addressing envelopes or collecting signatures, could you volunteer to help out with greeting or washing up?
In the grand scale of things, deciding to do something new, something extra, to go an extra mile on God’s behalf – all of these things seem like very small things. But if all of us choose to go an extra mile, then as a community and as individuals, we may find ourselves travelling further than we ever thought.