Sermon 2 Teach, Nurture & Baptise 26th Jan 2014

Sermon for Epiphany 3, 26th January 2014

The Second Mark of Mission – Teach, Nurture and Baptise

(Readings: Amos 3: 1 – 8 and Matthew 4: 12 – 23)

Welcome to the second of our series of sermons on the five Marks of Mission.

The five Marks of Mission came out of discussions between every member church in the Anglican Communion that tried to find a holistic common understanding of what it means to be a Christian.

It is probably true to say that the five Marks of Mission reflect the priorities of our African brothers and sisters a little more than the priorities of first world established churches.

The five Marks of Mission are arguably a little more urgent and basic than the sorts of things that we usually have on our PCC agenda.  This is certainly true of the second Mark of Mission.

Following on from the call To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom.

We are then asked To teach, baptise and nurture new believers.

The first Mark of Mission can be summed up as to tell.

The second Mark of Mission can be summed up as to teach.

The issues we have about proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom are made very clear by our lack of success when it comes to teaching, baptising and nurturing new believers.

I have been here nearly two years and in that time we have not baptised a single adult anywhere in the benefice.  If I were on performance related pay, I could be very poor. If the baptising new adult believers were a key performance indicator the diocese, they might be considering closing us down!

Do we have a problem? I think we do.

What are we going to do about it?

Well it is always a good idea to look at Scripture and see what God may be saying to us through it.  This morning, being Matins, we had from the OT from the prophet Amos.  It appears that the people he was speaking to had a similar problem to ours:

  • they were somehow missing the mark
  • there was a disconnect between what was supposed to be happening and what was actually happening
  • there was a gap between intentions and results

‘Do two walk together
   unless they have made an appointment?
Does a bird fall into a snare on the earth,
   when there is no trap for it?
Is a trumpet blown in a city,
   and the people are not afraid?’

If the things we want to happen are going to happen then we need to organise ourselves properly.

  • If two are going to walk together they need to make an appointment - so do two who wish to Facetime
  • If a bird is to be snared, a trap has to be set
  • If the people are to be warned of danger, there needs to a system to ensure a trumpet is blown - if there is going to be a fire drill there needs to be a fire alarm

Amos finishes his list of things not going right with the thought that

‘The Lord God has spoken;
   who can but prophesy?

It’s not that we don’t have good news – ‘The Lord God has spoken’.  The problem is that we are not in touch with those who need to hear it.

What does our Gospel reading have to say?  Very helpfully, it tells us how Jesus got in touch with those with whom he had a message to share:

‘As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him.’

It is possible to read this superficially and imagine that all that is need to pack St Edward’s is for the Rector to go round the Square saying to everyone he meets ‘Follow me’.  That would be an interesting thing to do – who knows I might yet be tempted to try it!

But the example I think Jesus is really setting us is not to expect people to come to us but to go and be with them where they are.

And some of that is happening as we speak. As we gather here, Josie is down at Stow Rugby Club where there are people who need teaching, baptising and nurturing too.

What aren’t they here?

That is quite a complicated question.  One of the reasons Josie and I are becoming regulars at the Rugby Club is that we would like to know what the answer is.

If someone who is just thinking about seeing what Christians stand for and got up to has come to church this morning, I wonder what they would find striking?

Is there anybody here for that reason?  I wonder what they would be struck by?

I imagine that it would be the huge dissonance between what happens here and what is happening out there.  What is happening here has hardly changed in some respects since 1547.

Out there, most aspects of living have been transformed even since 1947.

  • There’s a lot to be said for continuity – note this week’s debate at Manchester United
  • There’s a lot to be said for the Book of Common Prayer
  • There’s a lot to be said for well-ordered worship.

However, the second Mark of Mission is holding a mirror up to us.

Is it OK that the people we are called to teach, baptise and nurture aren’t with us on the occasions that are meant – at least in part- for that purpose?

I don’t think it is, and I know many of you share the same concerns.

Where is the next adult to be baptised in St Edward’s going to come from?  All the evidence suggests that it is unlikely to be as a result of anything we are currently doing or it would already be happening.

We need to be looking at

  • doing something different
  • doing something differently
  • doing something new

The strand of service that most people who are not regular attenders seem to appreciate are those which have a particular purpose.  I am thinking of services like

  • Remembrance Sunday
  • Civic Services
  • All Souls
  • Flower Festivals
  • The Christmas Tree Festival celebration

These are services which speak to a something that people have already connected with.

We are thinking carefully about what people connect with. We are thinking carefully about how we might perhaps have a service each month which starts closer to where they are than the presumption that if they but open their lips – their mouths will show forth God’s praise.

The other thought we are exploring is to collaborate on these services across the benefice for - as I have said – this is an issue we all face.

So the second mark of mission is to teach, baptise and nurture new believers:  This is an area where we clearly have work to do. The big thing is that we are willing to do it.

Where is the next adult to be baptised in St Edward’s going to come from?

Next week we have a Christingle service for Candlemas and the week after we’ll consider the third Mark of Mission

To respond to human need by loving service

Amen.