You’ve Grown

Epiphany l
Matt. 3:13-18

At the 10:15 service this morning a wonderful thing is going to happen. We are going to baptize Aimalohi Osayuware Claris Orhewere, the daughter of Michael and Aileyah Orhewere.

Baptisms are a wonderful experience, which eight o’clockers often miss. So I want to talk to you about this baptism. Through the sacrament of baptism Aimalohi will become part of the community of the New Covenant. She joins the community of the faithful, those who confess Jesus Christ as the Son of God and our Lord and Saviour. In the sacrament of baptism she receives the power of the Holy Spirit and becomes part of the body of Christ, which is the Church.

By their marriage, Michael and Aileyah have joined two worlds, or two cultures. Michael was born in the third world, Nigeria. Aileyah is part of the New World, this country. Their daughter is the heiress of both those worlds and cultures, and is in a sense a citizen of both worlds. By the sacrament of baptism Aimalohi becomes a member of an additional world, the world of the Church. The Church transcends and supersedes all nations and all cultures. The Church is part of the Kingdom of God, which is unfolding now in this world and continues in the world to come and in the life eternal.

Aimalohi can be to her parents a symbol of the world of the Kingdom of God and that unity which supersedes their diversity.

Now I guarantee that someone today, and over the next twenty years, will look at Aimalohi and say, “My how you have grown.” People still say that to my two sons, who are twenty three and twenty four respectively. I find myself saying that to son Chris who is now six feet three inches.

Michael and Aileyah’s job as parents is to help their daughter grow. That requires a lot of care and feeding. They will watch her diet, exercise, and activities. They want her to grow up healthy and happy. Like most parents, they will want Aimalohi to grow into a strong, mature adult with a good set of values, decent ethics, and a lively working faith which will give her a sense of self worth, confidence, direction, and purpose. You and I know that all parents what that for their children. It is a good, positive, natural and secular dream for their children. And yet as Christians, Michael and Aileyah should want more. They know that she is made in the image of God. By that we mean that she has within her part of the power and the source of life, which the Creator has implanted in all of us. She also has a spirit, which yearns to know, be part of, and eventually join with the spirit of God, Himself. The nurture of that spirit, as well as the physical and rational aspects of Aimalohi’s life lies to some extent in her parent’s hands. The Church, you and I, stand ready to help them in that nurturing process. We do that through prayer, Christian education, and Christian fellowship.

In the service Michael and Aileyah will be asked to renounce Satan and the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God. They will be asked to renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God. And they will be asked to renounce all the sinful desires that draw them from the love of God. These words not just quaint phrases from a moribund view of the Church.

You and I live in a world of constant temptations. It is a world of greed, selfishness, and corruption. Satan and sin are often very seductive and appealing. You and I are constantly tempted to be self-centered and homeocentric rather than religiously theocentric. As Christians you and I cannot be God centered unless we are Christocentric, Christ centered. Michael and Aileyah are taking on the responsibility of helping Aimalohi grow in her knowledge and love of Christ, so that she might be strong in her knowledge and love of God. She cannot know Christ outside of the Church. And she cannot live within the Church unless her parents bring her to Christ through their own active participation in the Church, the body of Christ.

Those of us who are eight o’clockers need to encourage the Michaels and Aileyahs in our own lives, our children or even grandchildren to be diligent in participating in the life of the Church for the sake of their own children.

Michael and Aileyah, like all Christian parents, need to work to help their daughters to know the Bible and to make the Bible part of their life. They need to help their children to meet Christ Jesus through the sacraments by partaking of those sacraments themselves on a constant regular, weekly basis. They need to behind themselves and their children to the Christian community by participating in the fellowship of the Church. Needless to say, those within the Church are not perfect and the Church has throughout the ages struggled to stay on the straight and narrow. Often the Church has failed, but more often than not through the power of the Holy Spirit the Church has brought the love and forgiveness of God to a tired and sinful world. Through their private and public prayers parents like the Ohrweres can help their own children not only to pray but to know God personally and to receive His power in their lives. That power does not work magic, but it does motivate believers to have lives which are worthwhile, lives in which people live for something beyond their own selfish desires. Faithful parents help children to learn to help others and to know the joy of God’s love and a peace which passes the stresses and strains of the world.

It is my fervent desire for the Orhweres that when people say, “My how you have grown” they will be speaking not only of Aimalohi’s physical, mental and social life, but also of her life as a Christian. Through concentrating on their daughter’s spiritual growth, the Orwheres, as is true of all parents, will themselves grow and be transformed increasingly into the image of God and into the life of Christ. I live in the hope that when the child we baptize this morning, as when her parents and each and every parishioner of St. John’s stands before God at the last day at the gates of heaven, He will smile, put His loving arms around you and say, “My how you have grown.” Amen.