John 10:11-18; 1 John 3:16-24
4th Sunday of Easter: Baptism Service
St Barbara’s 26.04.15
Its a wonderful joy to be baptising Isla and Jess and Max today. And I know for Lisa and David, Jonathan and Michelle, and David and Fay, their children bring them immense happiness and joy. It is one of the reasons for baptising our children – to give thanks to God for the extraordinary gift they are to us.
As a father of three, I know that joy. I can also testify to the fact that parenting isn’t always easy.
I didn’t take a GCSE or a degree in being a parent, and if you needed a licence to be one, I don’t think I would have passed the qualification test.
If you’re a parent or a grandparent or have ever had to look after children, you will know that sometimes events can all gang up on you. I remember one time when I was home alone with our three. The youngest’s nappy began to leak copiously across our new carpet just as our middle one had a melt down over the TV being turned off, just as the third decide that this was the ideal time to start testing the strength of the sofa springs. I didn’t know where to start or what to do.
Sometimes it may be the pressure of the ticking clock – is it really possible to have all hats, gloves, coats and bags in place and the children out the door in time for the school run or the drop off at nursery?
But I have to confess, sometimes it is just me – tired, fractious, longing for two minutes of space, and unwilling to go the extra mile and play the same game or read the same book for the 15th time, or immerse myself in the world of Peppa Pig or Frozen or Minecraft.
Indeed I confess there are times when I am not the best parent I could be. Grumpy, irritable, prone to bursts of irrational anger, my children see the sides to me that most of the time I can keep hidden from others.
And yet they have yet to ask for a replacement, yet to request that I be substituted for the dad up the road who seems much more fun. Why?
Because they instinctively know a truth that I at times only falteringly realise. I may not be the funniest joke teller, or the most fun games-player, or the most imaginative story-teller, or the most competent toy-repairer, but, no matter my failings, I will always be the best dad they could ever have. Because they know deep down just how much I love them. Extraordinary though it is to me, they wouldn’t change me for anything.
And I’m sure if Isla, Jess and Max could speak this morning they would say the dame about their parents. Indeed, maybe, they already do, just not by words. Because for all our children love out-does everything. There is no substitute for that.
But here is something even more extraordinary. God loves us the same way as we love our children – instinctively, unconditionally, unreservedly. Indeed, he is a parent who can love us way beyond even how we can love as parents, for his love is infinite and his patience eternal. Whilst parental love may occasionally, and sometimes tragically, fail, God’s love never does. It is constant, faithful, no matter what.
And the two readings we’ve heard from the bible tell us more. His love is intimate. He knows us each by name. He knows us indeed better than we know ourselves for he has watched over us since before the moment we were born. Whether we have been in church a thousand times or whether this is the first time, God knows us and loves us.
And his love for us knows no bounds. Jesus, the Bible tells us, has laid down his life for us, died for us and rose from the dead, that we might have life, forgiveness, new hope.
In baptising Isla, Jess and Max, we are welcoming them into this remarkable truth, we are assuring them of this incredible, unconditional love.
For all of us today we’ve taken promises saying that we are going to help them to grow up knowing that truth, knowing the love of God.
How do we do that? Well our other reading gives us a clue: to believe in Jesus Christ, and to love one another in the way he loves us.
God loves each one of us. Let’s receive his love today.