I was in St Paul’s cathedral on Thursday morning along with around 400 other priests, it was the Chrism Mass that takes place every Maundy Thursday and at which two important things happen – first the oils that will be used by the church for the next year are blessed and then taken back to the individual parishes.
The second is that every Deacon, Priest, Bishop and Reader present renews their vows, the vows they took at their ordination and consecration or licencing.
It is a very moving and beautiful service and coming as it does just before the beginning of the Tridium, the three fullest days of he Christian year, it is like taking an exceptionally good glass of wine at the beginning of a wonderful meal.
This lent we have been using the Bob Jackson Course Everybody Welcome to think about how truly welcoming we are as congregations, and churches. It reminded me that a few years ago as I was processing out of the magnificent cathedral past the font with the West doors open and the tourists ready with their cameras, I looked down and saw a sign that read:
Warning do not go any further
The notice was in red ink on a board that was placed on the outer step of the dais that has the magnificent font at its centre.
At first glance I was offended – Warning do not go any further – what a stark and bazaar message to place by a font, the very place where our Christian journey begins.
And then upon reflection I saw that in the light of this mornings celebration maybe it stands as a useful warning.
For this morning as we celebrate the central belief of our faith – that the one crucified Lord is the Risen and glorified saviour, we will renew our own baptism and once again affirm our promise to reject the devil and all rebellion against God, to renounce the deceit and corruption of evil, to repent of the sins that separate us from God and neibghbour and turn, submit and come to Christ the way the truth and the life.
For what is at the centre of our faith is the belief that Jesus has gone further than anyone else in showing the desire and steadfast love of God for his creation and you and me his children.
In the powerful re-enactments of the last supper, the agony of choice in the garden of Gethsemane on Maundy Thursday, the horror of crucifixion on Good Friday, the celebration of Easter on Holy Saturday night, we celebrate the power of God to bring life from death, light into our darkness.
In Jesus we see God refusing to heed the warnings and threats of violence and even the power of death to show his love and the power of that love to transform and bring life to this world and to you and me this morning.
And it is the gift of life that we celebrate – our lives that can with God be lived so differently, can find meaning and purpose because of Gods revelation in Christ Jesus. We celebrate and commit oursleves again to the life of Christ manifest in each one of us who carry on his work and mission in this world of darkness, violence and shame. Jesus crossed that line, that stark warning that divides and separates and in so doing reconciles and gathers in the lost and wounded.
And here is were a warning is appropriate for each one of us who renew our baptismal vows this morning.
For in our baptism,
In the promises that are made again this morning we are becoming one with Christ – one with his life, one with his glory. But, and there is always a catch yes – if we hope to wear the crown of glory then we will first have to wear the crown of thorns, just as Jesus himself did.
Today we are more aware than ever before of the numbers of persecuted Christians around the world. It is now a fact that Christians are the most persecuted faith community in the world with one Chrisitan being killled for their faith in Jesus every 11 minutes – that's two who have died sice we started our service this morning and by the end there will be 6 killed.
We keep in our prayers this morning our brothers and sisters in Kenya who were salughted on Friday many simply for being Christian, We have and continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Nigeria who have been vicitms of sectrarian violence, and we have prayed and raised funds for Christians in Iraq, and the list goes on.
The Christian faith into which I was baptised.
into which you were baptised
is not a faith that takes us away from pain and loss,
from despair and betrayal,
form darkness and fear
but one that takes us through this:
To feel the joy of belonging in our true home – the Church
To find the hope and steadfast love that will not let us go
To embrace the light and life of the risen and glorified Christ in this life and the next.
Alleluia Christ is risen he is risen indeed Alleluia.