Happy New Year! Thank you to all who served us faithfully over the Christmas period, whether this was serving in decorating the church building, playing music, moving chairs, inviting people to hear something of the gospel or praying. We can all play our part in the work of the kingdom, “good news of great joy that will be for all the people”! We continue to seek to serve this cause in the days ahead. Do be considering someone you can invite to our “Real Lives” evening on January 26th – venue to be confirmed. This will hopefully encourage people to attend our Christianity Explored Course beginning in February (details overleaf). This is our priority; reaching others with the gospel as Jesus commanded us “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations…” Matthew 28: 18-19. Because Jesus is Lord and God, we seek to pray for and encourage others to recognize this truth and live by it whole heartedly ourselves.
However, there are other matters not directly related to these things, which we need to consider. Jesus continues in Matthew 28 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The leaders of the church are to be involved in baptizing all who seek to be disciples of Jesus Christ. What is baptism? Article 27 of the 39 articles of the Church of England provides us with a helpful summary: “Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christian people are discerned from others that be not christened, but it is also a sign of Regeneration or New Birth, whereby , as by an instrument, they that receive baptism rightly are grafted into the church; the promises of forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be sons of God by the Holy Spirit are visibly signed and sealed; faith is confirmed and grace increased by virtue of prayer to God….etc” What is this saying? It is saying that baptism is more than an external thing in which people get wet. It is an outward sign of an inward reality. The water doesn’t do anything to people, it is a sign. But, as we obey the command of Christ, to baptize those who believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God (or the children of those who believe this), God is at work. He works through the prayer of his people by his Spirit to bring grace into the lives of his people who are those who, by faith in Christ, are born again, adopted as his children and joined to the church. Baptism is a sign and seal of this. It is faith alone that brings new birth, but baptism is a sign of this regeneration. The two sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, because they were instituted by Jesus Christ himself, and because he commands them, are means of his grace. Why is this important to be reminded of? The Bishops in the Church of England have issued guidance, which cannot be easily dismissed because it carries legal weight, that those who transition gender can be baptized using current liturgy. This places transitioning gender on a par with the sacrament instituted by Jesus Christ. You will be aware that this is not something I can do. Do pray for me and for PCC as we meet this week to consider how we respond to this, yet we can all be confident that Jesus Christ is still Lord on earth!
With much love in the only Lord, John Parker