Baptism and Witness - St Bride's: Reflection

St Bride's: Sermons

Baptism and Witness

John 17: 20-26

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20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:

23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.

25 O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.

26 And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.

Baptism and Witness
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I'm sure that some of you here have at some time in your lives been called as a witness in a court case. I had to be a witness about ten years ago in a civil case, and then two weeks ago I had to attend an ecclesiastical court - a Consistitory Court, at St Stephen's, Walbrook to give evidence about the proposed sale of a painting. Being a witness can be quite an intimidating experience. Even in the relatively benign surroundings of St Stephen's. The Chancellor and Registrar were gowned and wigged, as were the barristers and all due ceremony was observed. It was a proper Court. So when you stand, or sit, in the witness box, you feel slightly nervous and exposed.

Although you are there out of duty to do your bit in the hearing, it's hard not to feel on trial yourself. Will you be able to speak coherently, persuasively? Will you get 'taken apart' by hostile counsel? Will you make a fool of yourself.

You felt as a witness that you are on trial - not just for the truthfulness of your evidence but for your credibility as a person. And rightly so. If it is a trial by jury, the jury will place as much weight on how you come across as a person, as on what you say in evidence.

Our Gospel today reminds us of our Christian vocation to be witnesses: as Jesus was a witness of what he had seen and known of God his Father, so he calls us to be witnesses of the power and reality of his life in our lives. For Jesus' followers that meant being an eyewitness of his ministry from its beginning to his resurrection. But that couldn't last for ever. The eyewitnesses began to die out, what became important was the witness and testimony of the heart. For us,  being a witness for Jesus Christ means speaking simply but from the heart about our own experience of being a Christian and how the Christian story has made sense of, and been woven into the texture of our own personal stories.

So congratulations today to you Adrian and Angela, and also to Oriana's Godparents. Today, you have stood up and answered some searching questions, you have said your 'yes' to God and promised to give your encouragement to Oriana by your prayers, your example and your teaching. If your witness today is to bear fruit in the lives of this young person as she grows up, it will be as much because of your credibility and integrity as a person, as because of the evidence of what you say. Your Christian witness will be strong and persuasive if it grows organically out of your lives as you understand more about the life of Jesus. A few minutes ago we sang 'Make me a channel of your peace' with its prayer that we may be the bringers of love and pardon, hope and joy, consolation and reconciliation into our troubled world. It is a musical setting of the famous prayer attributed to St Francis of Assisi, who founded the Franciscan order. He famously said 'Preach at all times: use words only if you must.' In other words, we witness most powerfully to our faith, not so much by what we say as by the people we are. If as the years go by, you and Oriana can make those words your own and live them out in your lives, then you will find that you are fulfilling your calling to be witnesses for Jesus Christ. May he strengthen us all in that duty and service. Amen.

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