Travelling the Way Together
This sermon was for the baptism of two young children and took the form of a letter to them:
Dear Christian and Caledon,
Today your parents are bringing you to baptism, and that means you’ll belong to the great family of Christians that stretches all over the world and reaches back more than 2000 years. It’s a family that includes not just Anglicans but also Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, independents, of every nationality.
You’re going to be baptized into the community of people trying to follow the way of Jesus:
- the way of love and kindness, courage and compassion, justice and liberation;
- the way that the Holy Spirit guides us along, and equips and empowers us for;
- the way that means dying to ourselves and living for the kingdom of God.
Your parents are all strong, loving people who want to be part of making this world a better place. They’ve already done some extraordinary things. And they are here with you today in this community of St Aidan’s, where they and the whole community will promise to help you grow in the way of Jesus.
We need each other for this journey of faith.
When Jesus was going from village to village teaching, healing, proclaiming God’s kingdom, he gathered a community of followers around him, and taught them to live as he lived, do as he did, and support one another. After his death and resurrection, when they were scattered and afraid and traumatized, he called them back into community and empowered them with the Holy Spirit.
We need each other. We need to walk this path together.
Thomas the disciple wasn’t there with the others when the risen Christ first appeared to them. He was too afraid to believe it could be true, until he came back to the community and experienced Jesus for himself.
We need each other. We find Jesus in our midst.
As challenging as it can be to be part of a community, we’re not meant to be alone.
Caledon and Christian, this community of faith will always be there for you, wherever you travel, whenever you doubt and need encouragement, whoever you become.
This is my last Sunday at St Aidan’s before I take a sabbatical leave of three months.
I’ll be doing some travelling of my own. When I was planning it, I knew I wanted to spend the first month walking, and at first I thought of the Camino de Santiago that so many pilgrims have walked in Europe. But it didn’t feel right, and I gradually realized I needed to walk a route that would take me back to my roots as someone born in Scotland and nourished by a Celtic expression of Christianity. I thought of St Aidan, that humble, faithful Celtic monk and bishop in the seventh century, who lived in the monastic community on the Scottish island of Iona, then travelled to Northumbria and established a monastery on the holy island of Lindisfarne. I’ve visited both islands before, and they feel like home. So I began to plan how to walk from one to the other, from Northumbria across Scotland to Iona.
David and I will start with a two day retreat on Lindisfarne and we’ll end a month later with a two day retreat on Iona. And in between there’ll be a lot of walking: about 25 kilometers a day, across hills and mountains, doubtless through rain and sunshine, with or without blisters and aches.
My prayer is that it’s a journey of contemplation from one ancient community of faith to another, walking in the footsteps of St Aidan. I know we’ll need each other, for encouragement and company, and as we reflect on 40 years of marriage and 38 years of ministry. And I have a strong sense that Jesus will be walking with us, as he has done all our lives through hard times and happy, times of doubt and times of faith.
Dear Christian and Caledon, my prayer for you on your baptismal day is that the path ahead of you through life is one where you are never alone.
May you always know that you are surrounded by love.
May you find light in times of darkness, and may you learn to shine that light for others.
May you wrestle courageously with your doubts, and find a faith that you can build on.
And know that Jesus walks with you – the risen Christ, the love of God incarnate, the Way we need to follow.