Isaiah 40:12-17,27-31; Ps 8; 2 Cor 13:11-13; Matt 28:16-20
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”.
Trinity Sunday is a perfect day for a baptism. After all, I am about to baptise in the name of the Trinity: in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Fulfilling those words given to us by Jesus in our Gospel reading: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”; “God in three persons, blessed Trinity”, as the great Trinity Sunday hymn tells us. And of course, it is through a baptism, the baptism of Christ himself, that we see the Trinity: Jesus comes up from the waters of the Jordan, the Spirit descends like a dove, and the voice of the Father declares Jesus his beloved Son. Father, Son and Holy Spirit together (1). This marks the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry, this ministry, through which by uniting the human and divine in himself, Jesus restores the relationship between humanity and God, by living as God incarnate among us, sharing our human lives, showing us in his life on earth what it means to be and live as a child of God.
But what does it mean to be baptised in the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit? This Trinity? John Polkinghorne states that for the early church the doctrine of the Trinity was “expressing its belief that the one true God exists in the eternal interchange of love between the three divine persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (2). God the creator loved so much that everything was brought into being, and held in that love. God so loved the world that God became human, came down and lived among us, revealing that love to us and bringing us home: “Father of all we give you thanks and praise that when we were still far off you met us in your Son and brought us home”, as one of the great post communion prayers says. God loves us so much that God is with us, “to the end of the age” through the coming of the Spirit. God, three in one, loving us into creation, into redemption and into the future – Calling us to rejoice in that love and go out and share it with all humanity, all God’s children, reuniting all humanity in the love of God, through our actions, words and love for all.
Through the baptism today, our candidate will become a child of God, will begin a new life in Christ in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and begin their life in faith; take up their role in the call to love. And their parents, godparents and our church community will promise to help them grow to understand what being a child of God is. What it means to be baptised in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. To love God, through the example of Jesus and guided by the Spirit, means we step out of our old life and into a new one in Christ Jesus, responding to his call to follow him. Rowan Williams says of baptism: “to be baptised is to recover the humanity that God first intended…. that human beings should grow into such love for him and such confidence in him that they could rightly be called God’s sons and daughters”(3). Baptism restores us, enabling us to see ourselves as beloved of God, as a child of God, empowering us to act in the name of the Trinity.
So, baptism in the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit means we become what God intends, reconciled to God, and fully human, fully part of God’s created humanity. Just as God intended. But if in baptism we are to join with the God of love, following Christ’s example, that means we are called, like Jesus, to reveal God’s love to the world. To be, as Rowan Williams describes it, “led to where Jesus is”, because “being baptised is being led towards the chaos and neediness of a humanity that has forgotten its own destiny”(4), the destiny to be God’s children. Through baptism we become not just part of the community of the faithful, learning to live and love as faithful followers of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we are also united with all humanity, with all God’s children. Through baptism we are led to where Jesus is, in the “chaos and neediness” of the world. We are led out into that world to the powerless and those who struggle, to be examples of God’s love, the God who loves, and who gives power to the faint and strengthens the powerless, as the Old Testament lesson tells us.
Baptism changes us. We become fully who we are intended to be, called by God to join Christ where he is in the world in the messiness of life, and in the power of the Spirit to strengthen the powerless and needy and bring others out of their chaos and darkness. Baptism, the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace makes us children of the same heavenly Father, inheritors together of the kingdom of God, welcomed and loved by God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And that sign is more than words. It is action, as it leads us into relationship with the Trinity, into God’s love so that we can bring God’s love to all God’s children. Quite something for us to be asking our baptism candidate today. But the fact that this is Trinity Sunday should be reassuring. The demand, the calling, is not something we do alone: at his baptism, Jesus, God the Son, was assured of the love of God the Father and the blessing of God the Holy Spirit on his mission. And in baptism, all of us, can be reassured that through that baptism, we are led out to follow the Son, not on our own but assured of the love of God the Father and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We have been shown how to live as children of God by God the Son, and we are supported and strengthened to go out to all who live in darkness and chaos by God the Holy Spirit, knowing that God is with us always to the end of the age. We go with the power of the Spirit, in union with Christ and with the love of the Father. So, in the words of Paul in the epistle today, I pray that “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” And with our baptism candidate and their family today and always.
And now, let us fulfil the command of Jesus to baptise in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Revd Jackie Sellin
- Williams R (2014) Being Christian Kindle Edition SPCK p2
- Polkinghorne J (2010) in Oord TJ ed. “The Polkinghorne Reader” SPCK p193
- Williams R (above) p3
- Williams R (above) p4/5