Christ Our Future
No doubt some of you here today went to the London Arena yesterday and joined nine thousand others for the great Christian millennium event,Christ Our Future.
There we celebrated the Faith Once Delivered to the Saints which God has entrusted to people like us to safeguard in this as in every previous, and every future, age. It is into this faith that we shall be baptising this child this morning.
This faith can be conveniently summed up in those three words, Christ, Our, and Future. So let us look at each one in turn to see what it has to teach us about that faith.
Firstly it teaches us that the Christian faith is about Jesus Christ. That may seem only too obvious at first sight, but it's very far from what many people believe and preach today. For them Christianity has to do with kindness, good manners, and being helpful to those in trouble.
Now, of course, being a Christian involves all those things and a good many more besides. But to identify the faith with any or all of these without facing the critical questions "What think ye of Christ? Whose Son is he?" which Jesus asked of his contemporaries, is rather like saying that the word "English" means people who drive on the left of the road rather than the right. Yes, driving on the left is one of the characteristics of the English, but as a definition of what the word English means it's totally misleading.
Becoming or being a Christian is a matter of us committing ourselves to a lifetime of discipleship (that means learning, remember) to the only Person through whom we can become acceptable to our Creator. Only by that faith in Jesus Christ which we profess can we become "a living sacrifice, wholly acceptable to God"
The second word of our theme-phrase Christ Our Future is the word Our.
Yesterday's event might have been called Christ My Future, but it wasn't, and for the following very good reason.
Although the Catholic Faith which comes to us from the Apostles certainly begins with each of us as an individual turning to Christ – and that's why baptism is such an intensely personal (and important) decision, that Faith emphatically it doesn't end there. For through our baptism we become part of something infinitely greater than ourselves, the Body of Christ, Children of God, Fellow-heirs of God's Kingdom with Jesus Christ. That's what we mean by the Church.
We are baptised into the Church. And "church" in this context, remember, doesn't mean the building standing on the corner of Southborough Road. It means, first and foremost the people who meet in that church week by week to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God; but over and beyond this it means all the believers of the past two thousand years who have committed themselves to the service of and faith in Jesus Christ.
More specifically it means that today, the parents of this child, and the people of St Andrew's will be entering into a binding agreement with each other. St Andrew's will pledge itself to do its utmost to see that this child is given every chance to grow up in the fear and nurture of the Lord and to the praise of his Holy Name. The parents of this child will promise to all that is in their power to see that the people of St Andrew's are given every opportunity to fulfil the pledge which they will be undertaking this morning. Christ is our future, and ultimately, outside the church, there can be no salvation.
Christ Our Future. The word Future of course has two related meanings. One refers to the time that lies ahead of us. "In the future", we say, "we shall conquer cancer, solve the world's food problems, and eliminate polio.
But we also talk in a slightly different sense about "my future", "his future", "our future" By using the word "future" in this context we mean "where our true good, our perfection, our chief end really lie". And this sense of the word Future is, above all, sums up the purpose of what we shall be doing for this child this morning and what we witnessed in the London Arena yesterday.
We look back to the past, and reminded ourselves that the faith which we profess and into which we are baptising this child, "was won by centuries of sacrifice, and many martyrs died that we might worship God" in spirit and in truth, and that therefore the wellbeing of that faith can never be taken for granted.
We look to the present and remember that the Church is not just those who happen to attend St Andrew's or St Stephen's but millions of others like us. As we priests processed into the London Arena from the room where we had put on our vestments, it was a dramatic example of how one can become suddenly aware of this. It was like having the lights turned on in a dark room were we supposed ourselves to be alone, only to discover that in fact surrounded by thousands of others like ourselves so that we are part of a much bigger show that we ever imagined.
But from Past and Present we turn our eyes towards the Future. There is only one real future for us and that is Christ himself. He is our goal, our destiny and it is only ultimately in him that we shall find all these things which the world so vainly strives to discover for itself in other ways: fulfilment, satisfaction, achievement, justification and everlasting joy.
Let me remind you of those incomparable words from the 12th chapter of Hebrews
Seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us; and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Who for the joy that was set before him endured the Cross, despising the shame, and is sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
"Looking unto Jesus". Yesterday, today, and forever: he is our Future.
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