Baptism Sermon – Matthew 13:44-46 (NIV)
A while ago, when I was on holiday in the summer, my youngest daughter mistakenly thought that the sea was alive. We were sat on some rocks with our feet dangling in the water, watching the sun glistening on the sea, chatting and enjoying one of those precious moments in life. When I asked her why she thought that the sea was alive she came up with some rather plausible explanations:
- Well, Daddy, the water is always moving, she said.
- It’s teaming with life – plants; fish; mammals; crustaceans.
- And, of course, water sustains life; everything needs water to live. Life produces life!
- She went on… and if you leave a bucket of water outside in the sunlight life forms in it, so it must be alive!
- And the best one she came up with (preaching to the preacher): But Daddy the Bible says there are ‘streams of living water.’ Actually that bit is true. Jesus said: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (By this Jesus meant the Holy Spirit who cleanses refreshes, satisfies and sustains us.)
Of course, water isn’t alive but in baptism water does symbolise life… and yet is also symbolises death. Water is either poured on the head as a sign of being washed free from sin, and beginning a new life with God, or candidates are baptised by full immersion: they go down under the water to show that their old lifestyle is buried or drowned in the water and they are raised up to new life with Christ.
And that’s what we are celebrating today at the baptism of [Name]: We are thinking about and celebrating the new spiritual life of faith; a life washed clean, forgiven and restored into a right relationship with God the Father.
Now, I wonder if anyone can tell me what this is. (Show congregation visual aid.) It’s a metal detector sometimes used for finding buried treasure. You remember in our Bible reading Jesus said the kingdom of heaven was like finding treasure in a field or discovering a fine pearl of great value. (Matthew 13:44-45)
In July 2009 a metal detector unearthed ‘The Staffordshire Hoard’, the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon treasures ever found, and which was valued by the British Museum at £3.28million. Terry Herbert, aged 55 and a jobless council tenant on disability benefit, discovered the hoard while searching the field near the M6 toll road between Lichfield and Tamworth, using his 14 year old metal detector. The haul of over one thousand items – most of it gold and silver – dated back to between 675 and 725AD and made Mr Herbert an extremely rich man!
Then, a little over a year later, another extremely valuable hoard of Roman coins – the weight of two men – was found. Another metal detector enthusiast unearthed the second largest haul of Roman coins ever found in Britain. David Crisp, a 63-year-old hospital chef, found 52,503 coins in a single earthenware pot in a field near Frome, Somerset.
Now, imagine there’s a piece of land up for sale near where you live, and you ask permission to go in to the field with your metal detector, and there you find a hoard of buried treasure, more valuable than you can possibly imagine. Quickly, you bury the treasure again, and then you go off and liquidate all your assets, and you sell everything you own so that you can go back and buy the field and own the treasure for yourself. And even though it cost you everything you have you make the trade joyfully because you know the treasure will last way beyond your, and your family’s, lifetime. – Jesus said that is what God’s kingdom is like. If we really understood it, if we really knew how wonderful it is, then we’d sell everything we own and give up everything we had to gain entry into it, if we had to do… which fortunately, we don’t, because someone else has paid the entry fee for us!
Jesus literally did give up everything he had to obtain this treasure for us for free. Jesus gave his life on the cross to purchase the forgiveness of our sins and free entry into God’s kingdom… for all who believe and receive it.
I’ve got another visual aid here: It’s an oyster shell complete with its own pearl (although the oyster is long gone so it’s not smelly!) Do you know how pearls are made? Pearls are actually made through suffering. The oyster gets a grain of sand stuck in its shell and it’s really uncomfortable; its sore and irritating and could cause serious damage, and so the oyster protects itself and covers the source of its suffering with layer upon layer of a protective mineral deposit called calcium carbonate, which over time forms into a round, smooth, translucent pearl.
Again in our Bible reading, Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” Jesus said God’s kingdom is like a treasure worth more than all we have; more than we could possibly ever own or imagine.
Interesting too… that just as a beautiful pearl of great value is produced only through suffering, the way for us to know God personally, and the only way into God’s kingdom is through the suffering of Christ on the cross to pay for our sins… to secure forgiveness, freedom and eternal life for all who believe and accept Jesus. – Jesus suffered so that we wouldn’t have to. – Forgiveness, freedom, the infilling of the Holy Spirit (streams of living water), and eternal life, are available to all… Jesus said, “Those who seek me find me… To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.” (Revelation 21:6)
The treasure Jesus offers is worth searching for. And as [Names of parents bring Name of infant] to be baptised today, it’s like them, and the godparents, being a bit like metal detectors, and the Bible and the church being like the treasure map and the field – they are promising to help [Name of infant] to search for his/her own faith as they grow up, and to walk with them in the way of Christ. And they are all setting off on a journey, on a treasure hunt.
But how about the rest of us? Are you searching for purpose and meaning in life? If you don’t yet know God personally and you would like to find out about the Christian faith, can I encourage you to begin your own spiritual journey just as [Name of infant] – with the help of his/her parents and godparents – are setting off on their spiritual journey today.
And may God bless you in your own treasure hunt!
(For further resources see Baptism)