Sunday, 13 July 2014

Shouldering Life: A Baptism Sermon

Message: Shouldering Life
(Romans 8:, Matt 13:1-9)

May the words of my mouth
and the meditations of our hearts
be acceptable in your sight O lord
Our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

This morning I want to share a story with you.

It is a story about a family: a family that in many ways is not unlike your family.  There were parents, and there were children, and there were other relatives as well.  There were grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins.

Like any family it was a family that had its ups and downs.  Sometimes there were fights and even disappoints, and sometimes there were great joys and happiness.

One day, into this family a child was born: a little boy came crying into the world.  He was a gift, for life itself comes to us as a mysterious gift.

Now this child, this infant boy, took this gift of life upon his shoulders. It was a gift he would carry throughout his whole life.

And so, like you and I grow and come to be aware of the world around us, so the little boy grew and came to be aware of the world around him.

And as he grew and carried this gift of life on his shoulders he came to understand simple yet challenging lessons.

He learnt that there were times that he had to share.

And he learnt that sometimes other members of his family seemed more important to his parents than him.  Generally speaking, parents don’t deliberately play favourites, yet often this is how we end up feeling.

So, there were times the boy felt jealous or angry or sad, just as there were times he felt happy and loved.

And, all of these experiences of life, the good and the bad became a part of the life that he carried on his shoulders, the life that he bore.

Growing up for any of us is not an easy thing and there times the boy was very good and there were times he was not, he got in trouble and learnt there were consequences to actions.  So, he learnt how to live this life he was carrying as he grew towards adulthood.

Approaching the end of school decisions had to be made: more education; a gap year; or, to work straight away?  Was there a right path and wrong one for him to take?  Or was there simply the journey he was on?

We all want to think that there is particular purpose and place for us and we hope we make good decisions, the right ones, but how do we know?  What is the test? Personal happiness? Wealth?  Or something else?  Is there a bigger picture?

The boy grew into a man and he trained and he found work, a career, a direction to travel and he learnt about being accountable with his responsibilities and with his money, and with the many temptations that he encountered.  And sometimes he was good and sometimes he made some decisions that he would regret, so he carried all of these things about life on his shoulders.

He met a young woman and there was a romance and there was love and more responsibilities came upon the man as he grew even older: helping provide for his family and his children, and trying to be an example for them and for others in the way that he lived.

It’s really no more or less than any of us do: we work, we meet our responsibilities to others, we try to live well and we carry the life we are given on our shoulders.

And the man grew older and found teenagers were difficult and sometime he lost his temper and sometimes he grew bored with all of the responsibilities he had, so much so that at times he forgot how this life that he was carrying on his shoulders was a gift. 

For there were many times that he his life felt full of things and became a very heavy burden.

And the man grew older, and he knew the joy of his children finding partners and he rejoiced at the birth of his own grandchildren and he carefully shouldered these joyful memories into the life that he was carrying.

Like those of you who have retired, he confronted the conundrum of time unfolding before him far too quickly.  He wondered about what life would mean without work, as did his spouse for they were simply not used to being around each other that much.

Yet taking it all on his shoulders and bearing his life somehow he adjusted to this new phase of life and as he approached his later years his body did not work the same, nor his mind, and this lead to frustration and even disappointment. Yet, somehow, the man knew that the gift of life that he shouldered as a tiny baby had been a full one.

And as he looked back and thought about how well he had done and at times just how poorly he had done he wondered how his life would be measured: how it would be viewed: how he would be judged.

Whatever others might say about this one life, this life shouldered and carried by this old man, the one who gave him the gift of life in the beginning also bore the burden with him.

And the graciousness of the gift giver is to look with eyes filled with love upon the life of this old man, this child of God, who looks back. There is no condemnation from the gift giver, there is none, nothing, not a bit – for the gift giver has taken the joys and pains, and the good decisions and the bad, and has said I love you with an everlasting love.

And such is the love of the gift-giver that this gracious gift of life and love is flung about like so many seeds from the hand of sower planting with indiscriminate and reckless abandon, the good news which comes to all of us!  You are not condemned! You are mine and you loved!


Today is a joyous day we share in the baptism of Umaola and I want to share with before the family comes forward the meaning of Umaola’s name.  The name was given to Unga and Catherine from a friend of the family and it is a completely unique name as far as we know.

Uma means shoulders and Ola means life.  So his name means to carry life.  Yet on this day we remember that he will not carry alone for in baptism God shares in his life and ours through Jesus who is our friend and companion on the journey.

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