Acts 2: 36-47, 1 Peter 1:17-23, Luke 24:13-35
“Escaping from the shadows”
In our reading this morning from the book of Acts our reading climaxes with (and) “So those who received his word were baptised, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.”
Today we celebrate with Heath and his family and friends his baptism and like for those 3,000, today Heath receives the words from the book of Romans for himself: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism in to death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
Newness of life in salvation and heavenly life eternal, and newness of life in this world.
Knowing’s it Heath Birthday today and pondering of what a great gift to receive on his birthday I continued to read the continuation of the turn of events for those 3,000.
Verse 43 onwards: “And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
“Selling possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to others and spending our days going from house to house and eating together.” I’m not sure Heath, never mind Laurie and Sharna saw that one coming.
That picture of those early Christians and their sense of community is marvellous if not humbling. Thing is that if I tried to imitate those 3,000 people back then, I think I might be getting a visit from one of my superiors seeing if I needed a change of scenery or some time off because really, it is a very impractical thing to do.
Still it is important we remember those early days in the Church like it is important to remember our birthdays and anniversaries. To have those days were we look back at ourselves in baby photos and see that innocence and untarnished naiveté, or look at our wedding pictures and remember the joy of the day. Snapshots of history of a by-gone time to remind us who we are and where we are from. Moments and memories to reflect on to bring joy to our hearts. Yet moments that as we look in the mirror can convict as we wonder just what happened to that innocence and wonder of life to that person in the photo, who now seems like a stranger.
In the movie “The legend of Bagger Vance” Actor Matt Damon plays the character of Junuh, who as a teenager was a golfing prodigy. But after his World War I tour of duty, returns to his home town psychologically marred and broken and lives as a recluse with the only moments that can quell the sounds of warfare within him being when at a gambling table and through the bottom of a glass.
Ironically there is a charity golf tournament coming up in his home town involving golfing legends of the time, and that the town needs a local to participate they track down Junuh and after the arrival of the strange yet wise golfing mentor Bagger Vance, the character played by Will Smith who later we find out is an angel, Junuh eventually gives into their requests.
Throughout the movie while Junuh is seeking to find purpose and some sense in his life, he is fearful of just what they might be. To cut a long story short he is going very well in the tournament until on the second to last hole where he slices his tee shot deep in the woods. As he enters the dark forest to find his ball, panic overtakes him and the steam from the ground triggers memories of smoking battlefields, his hands tremble and he resigns to depart and seek solitude again in his self-medicating ways.
As he turns to leave, his golfing mentor Bagger Vance tells Junuh that the problem is not with his golfing grip, but with the grip the past holds on him and that “Their aint a soul on this entire earth who aint got a burden to carry he can’t understand. You aint alone in that. But you’ve been carrying this one long enough. It’s time to lay it down.”
Junuh replies, I know, but I can’t.
To which Bagger answers “Yes you can, you’re not alone. I’m right here with you. I’ve been with you all along. Now play the game. Your game. The only one you were meant to play. The one that was given to you when you came into this world. Now is the time”
A movie about a mythical game in the past. Our past and our experiences are real and can have enormous impact on where we are at now. Ending up with earthly success or hiding in the shadows through the bottom of a glass can be determined from very finite times and situations. Ironically, neither are guaranteed to give more or less happiness than the other should we be carrying a burden that we can’t understand or shake.
Sometimes knowing that our past has a hold on us we yearn for and know that it’s time to lay it down, and for just a moment we see a glimpse of light, only to realise in the next moment that the shadows still beckon and though we know there is a better way, we know the way that has been our “safe harbour” so far, and there we return. .
Jesus Christ gave His life to bring us forgiveness and eternal life because we could not bring it for ourselves.
Likewise, in this life when we cannot escape the shadows, He asks that we “Come to Him, all you who are weary and burdened, and He will give us rest.” (Matt. 11.28).
Though often we see Him not, Jesus walks with us and though He sees our stumbles mistakes and errors of our ways, he doesn’t walk with us to judge, but to guide and to offer us His peace as we travel our short journey on this earth. Our journey in which from beginning to end, from cradle to hearse there are so many variables that we can be left wondering where we are in scheme of things. The what if’s of life? The what ifs, that lead to the why’s and sooner or later, fear of what lies ahead-even if that be only the fear of the unknown felt on our last day.
Our God, God the Father of Jesus Christ is not a God of fear, but a God of love. His love so great that He gave us His Son Jesus Christ, who in turn gave His life that anyone who believes that He is the messiah, the Saviour sent to the world and that in trust in Him and in Him alone their sins are forgiven, they like Christ are given the promise that they too will be raised in the second life to reside forever with those who have gone before and who will go after in that same belief. That is the summary of Christian faith. No actually that’s the entirety of Christian faith.
A simple truth. Yet a truth so simple and unworldly that it is an easy target for the powers of darkness to attack and place before us the logical thoughts of our need to work our way to heaven, or alternatively tell us the truth of our sins to lead us to doubt that we could be saved. It’s a good trick because ultimately one part of it is true. We are sinners and if we look into the inner core of our soul where we hide the things we choose not to remember or at least would rather not, we see that yes, we have fallen short many, many times over our journey. But like our God, God the Father is not a God of fear, but of love, so is our Saviour Jesus Christ and in His love that we need not live our lives wondering and in despair of where we stand in regards to our heavenly status He gave us the gift of Baptism. The gift of baptism that closes the door on the wolf at the door as he tries to upset with human logic the sure truth of forgiveness and salvation in trust, and in faith in Christ alone.
Our Lord and Saviour walked this earth and knows the difficulties we face and the doubts that come to us and so He gave us Baptism. The gift of Baptism He will give today to this young boy so that should he doubt his goodness or his place before God, that he not listen to those human thoughts from inside, but listen to His Words from outside. His Words, His promise, that if you are baptised and believe that I am your Saviour-then nothing in all creation can ever break or take away from you your gift of eternal life.
Baptism is a gift of the sureness of what awaits, and a gift that allows us to live in the here and now and though in our lives we will still share happiness with sadness and comfort with hardship, we never need share the doubt of ourselves with the surety that He walks with us, guiding us and upholding us in love, and nor need we should we share the inner doubts of our worthiness with our salvation, for our salvation is from the worthiness and surety of our Lord and Saviour. Jesus Christ. Amen.