One way and another we've been thinking a lot about Baptism here at St Matthew's....baptism as a badge of identity and baptism as a sacrament of belonging.
2 weeks ago we celebrated the Baptism of Christ, and heard with Jesus that wonderful affirmation
“You are my son, the beloved, in whom I am well pleased” - those words offered to each of us not because of who WE are, or HOW we are - but because of WHO and HOW GOD is.
Last week, we baptised (Clare's little daughter) Hettie, – and remembered that, like her, each of us is so loved by God that if you or I had been the only person ever born, Jesus would still have come into the world for us...
Then, with great joy, we welcomed Hettie into the family of the Church – so it's good that today Paul tells us more about that family, that multitude of people across the world and through the ages with whom we are connected because“in one Spirit we were all baptised into one body”.
- and goes on to explore just what that body looks like...
It's a familiar passage, of course...and the truth of it is obvious.
Bodies ARE made up of many different parts...All of them ARE equally necessary...simply because you aren't very conscious of your gall bladder it doesn't mean that you could manage quite happily without it...if the whole body was an eye, where would hearing be...
but I'm not sure that in the church we behave as if we really believe this. I know that I spend far more time than I should lamenting that I don't have the gifts and abilities of other people....imagining how much more use I would be to God, and to his church, if only I were more like.....Well, I'll leave you to guess...
But remember, though you may not value your gifts, or imagine that you have much to contribute – you are absolutely essential if the body of Christ in this place is not to be handicapped, less than it can truly be.
But I don't imagine I'm alone in behaving as if some parts of the body are more useful, more valuable than others. I think that from time to time we all behave as if certain people have a greater importance than others...as if it's more valuable to be “up front” than praying in the pew, better to be welcoming someone at the door than ironing the linen, arranging the flowers than gurgling in your mum's arms.
Admit it – you DO tend to think that some people have more to offer the church than others...and so did the church in Corinth
“Are all prophets?are all teachers? Do all work miracles?” asks Paul...and we know his answer will be in the negative.
All those ministries, all those gifts are necessary.....and its not up to us to withold them...but more, if we are ARE a body, then we're all equally necessary – and what's more if we ARE the body of Christ....then each of us should carry HIS DNA.
I'm no scientist so when I think of DNA, what I actually imagine is the way the the lettering that runs all the way through a stick of seaside rock, no matter where you cut into it. That's really poor science, but not a bad way of thinking about it.
And if we're thinking of the DNA of Jesus – the DNA that we share - well, our gospel reading tells us why he came – and thus what WE should be doing to show ourselves part of his Body
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour”
We experience what it means to be Christ's Body as we engage in Christ's mission in the world. And if we want to know more about what that means, we have an excellent starting point in our gospel reading for this Sunday. In it, Luke portrays Jesus at the start of his public ministry claiming a combination of passages as his mission; and in claiming this as his mission, Jesus offers himself and his life as a prophetic sign that "today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
I think sometimes that, as a member of the Body of Christ, I'd like to put that kind of invitation on my bathroom mirror, to see at the beginning of my day as I make decisions throughout my day:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because God has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour."
Because that's one set of things I think we should draw from this passage.
I'm not Jesus, and I can't save the world.
Actually, nor can you.
But together with our brothers and sisters, close at hand and far away, we are the Body of Christ. We are called to live that identity, and to engage in the mission that comes with it -- not later, when we've got our act together, or when it's more convenient, when our health is better or we have more time on our hands. Not later but TODAY.
The Spirit of God was upon him, because God anointed him to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and the year of the Lord's favour. And here and now, we are the Body of the Christ, Anointed, set apart to live out Christ's mission in the world.
This is the way of life that God longs for for us; it is the way of life God calls us to; it is the way of life he wants us to help create. And as we live it, together, this scripture is fulfilled in our hearing -- and in our doing.