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The Seventh Sunday after Trinity

Fr. David Curry

Christ Church, Windsor, July 14, 2002

“But now being made free from sin and become servants to God,

you have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life”


The baptisms of Dennis and Dominic are a special occasion not only for them but through them for all of us.  A father and his infant son are baptised in the Church where a wife and mother was herself baptised.  Such things may seem to be merely personal, even private, anecdotal and circumstantial or to fit the rage of the age, purely biographical.  And yet it belongs to the significance of the mystery of baptism that such things become the occasion of reminding us that our lives have their identity, purpose and vocation in the greater biography of God which the Scriptures have opened out to us. 


“Come unto me”, Jesus says.  “Suffer” - in other words, let, allow, even compel – “the little children to come unto me and forbid them not”, he says.  “Ask and ye shall have; Seek, and ye shall find; Knock and it shall be opened unto you” and behold, such wonders of infinite delight are poured out upon us through the waters of regeneration poured out upon them.  And perhaps, we come late in the day, in the darkness of the night, in our doubts and perplexities, like Nicodemus, but if we come like him asking “how shall this be? Can a man be born again?” we shall discover as he did, we trust, the mystery of being born again, of being born anew, of being born from above, and of being born into the covenant of everlasting life.


To signal the wonder of such mysteries we have this lesson from Paul in his Epistle to the Romans.  The epistle for this Sunday, it complements the gospel story of the feeding of the multitude in the wilderness.  Baptism and Communion are signified in the conjunction of these lessons.  Both themes are captured magnificently for us in the Collect. 


There is the “graft[ing] into our hearts the love of thy Name” - the Name by which and into which we are baptised, the Name of the Trinity.  There is the hope and expectation of the “increase of true religion” in us.  There is our constant nourishment by the all-goodness of God without which we cannot be kept in the great mercy of God.  In a way, the baptisms of Dennis and Dominic serve to make visible to us these invisible mysteries.


What Paul signals for us is that great mercy of God in the meaning of baptism.  It is radical new life communicated to us individually, one by one.  It means death and life, a life that is a new beginning, a new beginning with God in whom we have our end - our perfection - in that end that shall not end, the end that is life everlasting.  It means a dying to sin and a living to God, for only so can we love one another.


By baptism, we are “made free from sin” because of him who was “made sin for us” that he might make us right with God.  We are become servants to God to live holy lives, lives which are not so self-involved, selfish and turned in upon ourselves.


Baptism in the strongest possible way reminds us that our lives are not and cannot be solitary affairs as if each of us were the centre of the universe.  Our attempts to be the centre of reality can only result in our frustration and our folly.  Such is no life.  Such is sin, the wages of which is death.  We only live when we life for one another and we can only live for one another when we live for God and when God’s life lives in us.  Such is the mystery of baptism.  It is the mystery of our incorporation into the body of Christ. 


Baptism is about being grafted into the life of God, about being made the precious child of God, about being named in the greater intimacy of God’s own naming of himself, the intimacy of the communion of the Trinity, the communion of the Father the Son and the Holy Ghost.


Baptism would have us die to the death of sin so that we can live to the life of God.  That we should want this for ourselves and for our children is one thing, that it should be provided is yet another.  Our wanting and our desiring cannot accomplish this and yet such things are themselves the motions of God’s love at work in us bringing us to want what he wants for us and which he provides


He provides for us in Word and Sacrament, in Baptism and Eucharist, in lives reborn and consecrated to him who is perfect love, at once selfless and perfecting.  It remains for Dennis and Dominic and for all of us to will what God in the mercy of Christ’s sacrifice has willed to give us. 


Our identity and our vocation are signalled in Paul’s words.


“But now being made free from sin and become servants to God,

you have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life”