Today is the first of five sermons in our summer series that takes us through to the beginning of Lent.
The title of our series is ‘Commitment to Change’ – which has a dual meaning – committing to a change and from commitment to change to change occurring.
We will largely be following the common lectionary as we explore and commit to growing our individual and corporate faith.
For God’s church in Kiama-Jamberoo, 2015 will be a very important year, if not the most important year in many years.
We continue to pour our efforts into innovative ways of worshipping God and preaching the Gospel, to our church family, our wider church community and those who are yet to know Jesus Christ.
We continue to uphold the rights of those who are persecuted, neglected, forgotten or unjustly treated as well as speaking up for and caring for God’s natural realm.
We will continue to find new and more effective ways to serve our community and steward, utilise and release the property and financial resources in our care, and to work collaboratively with other Christian churches.
But we only do these things in the power of God, under the influence of the Holy Spirit and with the example of Jesus.
We only do it, as I must repeat, if we are committed to growth – personal faith and corporate faith.
Today, we will look at making a commitment [the starting point – yet it can also be an end point].
In future weeks, we will have messages entitled:
Growing in Trust
Growing in Prayer
Growing in our Acts of Faith and finally
On Transfiguration Sunday [15th February] we will look at transformation through growth.
Our two readings today are very much relevant to the New Year, for they are both about beginnings and they are both linked by God creating, the Spirit moving and Jesus’ redeeming love.
But they are also about new beginning and how things were changed. God’s commits God’s self to create the world and humans in God’s own image. In Jesus’ baptism God has both committed and commissioned Jesus to renew and change a world that has gone decidedly ‘out of whack’.
In turn, in the gospel reading, the adult Jesus has submitted to the rite of baptism, but more importantly, this marks his commitment to follow a path laid out for him by his Father in heaven.
What is it within ourselves that takes us to a point where we commit to change – change from smoker to non-smoker, from unhealthy couch potato to athletic participant, from reactive person to proactive person, from fighter to lover, from unbeliever to believer?
Is it a still small voice prompting us?
Is it a restlessness in our spirit?
Is it a feeling that we have become formless, void and dark [Genesis 1:2] and need to change?
Is it an event, illness, gain or loss that has happened to us or impinges upon us that makes us have the ‘metanoia’ moment [Greek word for ‘repent’ – or to turn in a new direction]?
Well, yes, all of the above and more?
Commitment – first of all – is making a decision to move forward, based upon a heart and head knowledge, for humans and the created word, that things can never stay the same.
Yet, as we see at the start of Genesis, commitment given in a simple statement to change, to move, to create and to recreate is an act of free will.
In Mark’s gospel our reading sees the adult Jesus, for the first time, making a commitment to be baptised by a mere human – John. By the way, this baptismal event is so important – it is recorded with very little variation in all four of our canonical gospels.
This might tell us something of its importance in our own faith and understanding of our organisation as the church of the body of Christ, and why we wrestle with what it means to be a Christian living in a 21st century world surrounded by non-Christians or non-committed Christians.
Baptism is not act pact of pastoral care; it is not a means of being in the club, or just something one does because others do it. It is an act of commitment, a decision of free will and a desire to be on a new path.
John is preaching a baptism of repentance – ‘metanioa’ – changing direction. So what do we witness in this act of baptism in this moment of commitment to change.
- The Holy Spirit in the form of a ‘dove’ descends upon him – the helper, the empowerer, the comforter [from the Greek translation in John’s Gospel] is there to grow his faith, trust and ministry.
- Secondly, God affirms how please he is that this commitment has occurred and
- Finally in the public nature of this committing ceremony the one being baptised is pronouncing to all – in heaven and on earth – that they are not ashamed of their decision.
In this short church season were we celebrate both creation [the Green] and the epiphany [white] – what revelation or realisations will we have? What will we create, all in the name of our Saviour?
We cannot stand still, we are compelled to move forward in order to breathe, otherwise our faith will die.
Similarly, we cannot be a people who live in a fishbowl who simply go around and around in circles in our own space. We are called to be free and to thrive and be in the wider world.
As we said in our kids’ talk, it might be scary being in a world we don’t quite know and understand and it might be scary doing things in new and unfamiliar ways.
And what will the church look like in five or ten years? I don’t know – but I want to be part of it. I commit. I want to be helping bring the growth and change we want – not just waiting for the type of change that will simply swallow or swamp us.
What I can be certain of is two things:
- God is interested not in our ability, but our availability and
- We can read God’s reaction to the commitment we make when we read verse 11 of the Markan reading – ‘You are my child, whom I love, with you I am well pleased.
What is God placing on your heart today? Is it
- Lent event?
- Prayer warrior?
- New project officer?
- Worship leader?
- Bible Study leader?
Maybe it’s just that He has shown you that ‘metanoia’ is what he wants for you today.
Come and pray with an elder at the end of the servie and see what God will do!
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