Today we welcome Hannah and Christopher and their beautiful new daughter, Lily Rose and their family and friends for Lily’s baptism.
I also want to welcome Father Cliff a former priest of Hannah and Christopher, who has joined us here to lead our baptism. Of course Father Cliff is also brother Cliff to me. So you think it must have been a strange family for two of us to end up within the ordained ministry, but that’s only half of it for our sister also married an Anglican clergyman, so the story is getting out of hand.
How come, who knows.
But I wonder how many of you saw Compass last Sunday. It asked the question of “Whatever happened to Sunday Schools.” Between 1945 and 1975 a large proportion of the young children across Australian attended the countries churches for education.
They were taught the stories of Jesus who taught the people of his day the ultimate values of life. Apart from some small remaining groups, Sunday Schools are a part of our past history
Most people today argue that children learn values, through school and families. I agree, but only to a point. I argue it is not just values that are important, but once people become adults they need some sort of philosophy or belief, ie. some story of life that holds all these values together so we can prioritize values in adult life when there are complex collections and sometimes conflicting values.
It is the story of Jesus that provides this philosophy and belief. Sunday Schools provided a generation of young children with the values and beliefs necessary for a mature life.
As I thought about my family’s life in the church of the Sunday School era, I figured that it was the involvement and commitment of many people, including the involvement of my parents that created the power and effectiveness of this experience.
I recently heard a woman speak about her time of pregnancy by describing it as a time when her own body was making another body.We then spoke of how the next stage of life is the making of a person. This is not just the mothers task but that of the whole community.
No doubt you have heard the saying that it takes the whole community to raise a child. My point is that at the core of this task is the teaching of values and belief.
To be even more precise we need to turn to the idea we find in our gospel reading today. Its not a simple reading, but one in which should you take time to read it thoughtfully you would discover the core of such education.
It is a passage that highlights the unity of relationships between, Jesus and God, Jesus and his people and therefore God and people. As I highlighted in my Sunday School experience, it was the quality of relationships that was the foundation of that experience. It is important because the faith experience is all about the relationship with God.
The ultimate model or icon of human life is Jesus. Baptism is our embracing of him as the heart of our raising our children.
I both welcome and congratulate Hannah and Christopher for their decision to have Lily Rose baptized here in our gathering today. It’s our privilege to host this event.
To conclude I want to read a passage on children that came from an unexpected source, well outside the Christian faith, but certainly from a well-respected writer commonly referred to during that Sunday School period of the 40’s to 70’s.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.
They come through you, not from you.
And though they are with you, they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them.
But strive not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and he bends you with his might that the arrows may go sift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so he loves the bow that is stable.