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Sunday 12th January 2014 - Baptism of Christ
Over the years Rosemary and I have collected pieces of pottery - and I have one handsome jug here to show you. It was made by a potter called Alan Caiger Smith at his Aldermaston Pottery in Berkshire. It's an attractive object, and probably would be worth about £150 - except that it's badly cracked. Unfortunately it fell off a shelf and broke, and I painstakingly stuck it together again. From a distance it looks a beautiful object - but it is flawed.
There are many references to clay and potters in the Bible, usually likening human beings to clay and God to the potter, and suggesting that, like fragile pottery, human beings are cracked and flawed: we are marred, and out of joint with the purposes of our Creator. We can be beautiful, we can be useful, we can still give glory to God - but nevertheless we are fundamentally flawed.
We are like a cracked pot. That is what the word 'Sin' means - and if you want a simple non-technical picture of the Christian understanding of the human condition - it's like a cracked pot, beautiful but broken.
The Bible tells us that we are all in that condition, that sin separates us from God, but that God continues to love us and shows us the depths of that love in Jesus Christ: and that through that love God calls us back into relationship with Him. God, if you like, sees the pot in all its beauty, without the cracks.
Now I mention the word 'Sin', because there was a bit of a furore last week about the Church of England removing references to sin from the revised form of the baptism service on the grounds that the word sin doesn't resonate with people. It conjures up unhelpful associations. The Archdeacon of Leicester said that when people hear the word sin two ideas spring into people's minds - sex and cream cakes, and this trivialises the concept. Well you'll be glad to know that this Archdeacon thinks you are much more robust than that - and our baptismal service still speaks of repenting of sin and renouncing evil.
Baptism is all about acknowledging our broken-ness, our incompleteness, our need of God, turning away from things that hinder our relationship with God and turning towards the light of Christ as we seek a fresh start, an new beginning and ask for God's help in living in His light and love. That's why parents and godparents have just said - I repent of my sins, and I turn to Christ.
Jesus himself, as a fully grown man, presented himself for baptism, because he wanted to affirm the way of looking at humanity and the world that baptism implies. Those coming forward for baptism saw that there was much that was wrong with the world, that there was a broken-ness, an incompleteness about human beings, and that they needed the grace of God, represented by the cleansing waters of the Jordan, to help them to change for the better and make a fresh start, or to live in the light of Christ.
That is what is happening this morning, and we all are participants family, congregation, and of course, little Edward himself.
There is no shame in admitting that we are 'beautiful but broken', in need of God's grace, in confronting the reality of sin in our lives and our world. But the glory of our Christian faith is that sin doesn't have the last word, it's not the end of the story. The baptismal candle reminds us that we can turn to the light of Christ, learn to trust him, to lean on him and to grow into his love. There is a phrase in the old Catechism which proclaims that 'God made me for himself, to know him, to love him and to serve him' - that is true for Edward and each of us here this morning.
We may be a bit like cracked pots, but God loves us and sees our potential - like the good potter he is. All he asks is that we are to shine our light to the best of our ability, to make an effort to turn to Christ every day, and so to live and work to his praise and glory. Amen.