Christ Church Cathedral Grafton
Third Sunday of Easter
15 April 2018
During these great fifty days after Easter the first reading in Church most Sundays comes from the Book of Acts rather than the Old Testament.
Normally we take time to check in with the wisdom of our spiritual ancestors (and indeed our spiritual cousins still) in the Jewish faith, but during Easter we are invited to listen to episodes from the account of the early church that we find in the Acts of the Apostles.
We can talk more about Acts some day in one of the Dean’s Forum sessions, but it is a fascinating book and the only one of its kind in the New Testament. It does not offer us stories about Jesus, but stories about his first followers in Jerusalem, then stories about other early leaders, and especially stories about St Paul.
One of my favourite stories from Acts is the passage just heard read this morning. Let’s start by unpacking it a little bit.
Peter and John at the Temple
Peter and John were from a couple of guys from two small villages on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, about 100km north of Jerusalem.
We do not know how many times they had ever been to Jerusalem, but they have been here for a couple of week according the the Gospels and Acts.
Every time these two fishermen from Bethsaida and Capernaum walk into the temple they were supposed to be in awe of the scale and beauty of the place. It was many many times bigger than this Cathedral.
So imagine them in this story, entering into the vast Temple plaza via the highly decorated Beautiful Gate (aka Golden Gate).
Just like the holy places in Palestine today, there were beggars lying around the entrance hoping for a gift to help them meet their living expenses.
One of the beggars catches Peter’s eye, and Peter (that’s a nickname meaning, Rocky), says to him: “Hey, look over here!”
The beggar does not need a second invitation. He is hoping for a nice big bag of coins. But then Rocky says, “I have no silver or gold , but I do have something for you!”
In the story, Rocky (Peter) heals the lame man who then goes into the temple with them: “walking, and leaping and praising God.”
Look at us … what are you seeking?
I want to hit the pause button on the story, and use that line from Peter as the anchor for our reflections today.
What are we looking for when we come to church?
What are we looking for when we bring a baby for Baptism?
What is Willy looking for when he pesters his parents to get Baptised?
Despite the fact that some churches promise it, we are not offering prosperity, happy marriages, or good health. I wish were able to do that. Imagine how we would pack them in every Sunday! Imagine how much happier our community would be.
Sometimes our prayers are answered in the way we want, and the simple fact that I am here—alive and in such good health—may be a sign of that. So, sincerely on my part, thank you for all those prayers and all that love that has washed around me these past six months.
But other times those prayers are not answered. The money problems persist. The family breaks up. The disease gets worse and the person dies.
So I need to say, along with Peter and John, we are not promising you silver and good. We are not even promising you an easy life, good health or a happy family.
So what is it that we offer?
Have we got something as good as silver and gold, or maybe even better than silver and gold?
I think we have, and that is why we are baptising Sienna and Willy this morning.
So what can be better than silver and gold?
Let me try a 3 minute promo for the Good News that Jesus brought, and the Good News that involves Jesus.
Hey, Willy, why not come down here and help men with the next bit?
OK Willy, here is why I am going to be baptising you here in this Cathedral in a few minutes time. Are you ready? No need to take notes because it is the job of your mum and dad and your godparents to remember all this and help it come true for you. No pressure, folks.
I am going to give you three words (that’s not too hard, eh?) and a sentence or two to go with each of them:
We have learned about about God from our own lives, from the Bible, and from thousands of years of lived experience by people of faith. We want to share that stuff with you, because knowing it helps you make sense of life. We want to share our faith with you, so you can make it your own as you get older and keep on learning about God.
Sometimes the world can be a scary and sad place. But our faith gives us hope. Not a pretend happy face even when bad stuff is happening, but a deep confidence (hope) that even when the bad stuff is happening it is OK because God will make it all work out just fine. When we stop and think about it, that is one of the ways to think about Easter. Things looked bad for Jesus on Good Friday and really no better the next day, but by Easter Day God had turned everything around: for Jesus and for us.
The last of our special three words is love. I am not talking about how you feel about someone else, but how you treat them. When we have faith and hope, then we can be there for others and create the kind of world God wants this place to be. We cannot do that without faith and hope, but with God we can help make the world a better place.
So that, young man, is why I am going to baptise you now. And each time you come to visit us here in Grafton you can have a quick word with me to ket me know how that project is going.
Sometimes it will be easy to have faith and sometimes it will be hard. Sometimes it will be easy to be hopeful, and other times everything will feel hopeless. Sometimes it will be easy to care about others and to care about the world. and sometimes … well, sometimes we all need the encouragement of other people’s faith and other people’s hope to keep us on the track.
And that is why we come to church.
Not for the silver and gold, but to find other people who can help us have faith, hope and love so we can all help each other make the world. a better place. People like that are better than silver or gold, and you find them in church.
So, if you are ready for the adventure to begin, let’s go and get the water ready …