Glencairn Methodist Church
Last month I celebrated a significant birthday the Psalmist's three score years and ten, no less (Ps 90: 10). The poet suggests that if strength endures I might make it to four score. Current death statistics suggest that that is a possibility. The median age of death in Northern Ireland is 79, and, in my neighbourhood , between 79 and 85. Of course I am aware that half the population lies below the median value! But enough of this! Medical and pharmaceutical science is doing a good job at the minute (and in saying this I believe that these sciences are God's way of healing in these times and I thank God for them.)
I mention all this for two reasons. First, it places me in the generation which had to learn things "by heart" at school. I learnt, under threat of pain, to recite and indeed understand my addition and multiplication tables, I learn to spell, I learn poetry and I learn Latin. Tables made my future activities in mathematics easier and the others made by future studies in everything else more satisfying. Furthermore, brain surgeons tell us, all of this memorising activity exercised bits of my brain that otherwise would have lain dormant. Latterly I have occasionally sought reassurance from my calculator and spreadsheet, and my dictionary and spell-checker as my brain begins to lose its youthful agility.
The second reason is that the 70th anniversary of my Baptism comes along on 28th of this month. This was the day on which I "was made a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.", in other words, the day on which I became a Christian. Some of you will recognise these words as a quotation from the Catechism that I also learn by heart in Sunday School. This would have been the 1928 version (essentially the same as 1662), which may be found on this webpage if you do not know it by heart! This catechism teaches through a set of 25 paired questions and answers which cover essential doctrines of the Christian Faith as proposed by the Anglican churches. It is a sort of FAQ section in the Book of Common Prayer. It is important to realise that being made "a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven" is a gift from God to the infant, given by grace in response to the prayers of devout men and women, men and women who also undertook to nurture me in the Christian faith, through both teaching and example, and to prepare me to make my adult confession of repentance and faith, which I duly did at my confirmation on 7th December 1958. Confirmation is also a two-way thing, a cooperative process between God and humans - I confirm for myself the promises made for me by my Godparents and God through the church, in particular through prayer and the laying on of hands by the Bishop, confirms the candidate in his or her Christian Faith. Both of these are important. FAQ 20 explains why (most) Anglicans believe in infant baptism. I recognise that many Christians do not so believe and practice only adult "believers baptism". Proponents of each process should accept that others believe differently and that different people come to a living and lively faith in different ways.
One of the promises made at baptism is that the person "should keep God's holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of their life" and the candidate's response is to "pray unto God to give me his grace, that I may continue in the same until my life's end." The trouble is that all humans, including Christians, have an innate propensity to make a mess of things. From time to time each of us displays selfishness or anger or covetousness and other bad intentions and deeds. Theologians call this "original sin", inherited from our first father, the sinful Adam. So all Christians need to be aware of this and to seek daily the grace of God to continue to grow more Christ-like in our lives. St Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3: 18 that "we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." Let the Holy Spirit do this in your life!
5th February 2013
NOTE - Previous "Monthly Messages" are archived at http://glencairn.connor.anglican.org/previousmessages.htm