Today we were fortunate enough to be able to witness and offer support to our brother Paul as he was baptised. Ian led our service ably assisted by Amanda, Roy and Jonny.
We also welcomed some visitors, Duncan and Sandra from Canada and Timmy and Kassidy from Australia. A rare opportunity for the extended family of David and Esther to get together. Tim preached today not about water as we might all have been expecting but about bread.
We played a classic old advert, the 1973 Hovis advert directed by Sir Ridley Scott. (He attended art college here in Hartlepool!). Anyone of a certain age will know the advert in question, It features a young boy pushing his delivery bike up a very steep hill to the tune of Dvorak’s Symphony number 9. Tim led us in thinking about bread today rather than water. He read John 6 35 to 51. He asked us to imagine what it must have felt like, that long slog up the hill pushing the big heavy bike. He admitted that he had considered playing us the great Two Ronnies spoof version filmed 5 years later. That went on even longer emphasising the difficulty of the climb. Many of us try to live like that . We go through life feeling like it is a long trudge up the hill in search of things. Imagine if the bread was delivered to door with ease, with no effort at all from us. In 1973 at the time of the advert, there was no concept of online shopping. (Subsequent to Tim’s preaching I found out the name Hovis was the result of a competition won in 1890 by Herbet Grimes. He used the phrase “HOminus VIS” which means the strength of man. Apt really for the subject of today’s sermon. )
We need to all remember Jesus is the bread of heaven. No one can come to faith unless the father draws him. He is the one who draws us to himself. Many of us here are here for that reason.
The author C S Lewis, of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, and Narnia fame was writing about when famous people met Jesus. An interviewer tried to get C S Lewis to outline the moment of his conversion, of the exact time when he, CS Lewis, met Jesus.
“ I was decided upon” was C S Lewis’s eventual reply. In his book “Surprised by Joy” he goes on to expand on that saying that “The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation”. God’s obsession with us is our freedom. Throughout the Old Testament God’s people had to learn that God was not at their beck and call. Full of grumbles in the wilderness , God could have just let them get on with it. God takes the initiative out of his loving action. Often even when we resist or ignore Him, he stills draws us to him. It takes place in the hearts of men, women, and children In quoting Isaiah 55 it is made clear that only people able to recognise God’s incredible revelation can taste the bread of God. It’s there for anyone, no one will be turned away. Eternal life mentioned here is the eternal life of heaven is here in the present, human beings filled with his spirit. Eternal life is a quality of life. His bread is on offer to all who turn to Jesus. Every barrier to that life is broken at the cross.
God’s indescribable love defeats all the pain and struggle in life. All of us who look upon the cross may taste of that life. Jesus has brought this bread right to your door, no hills to struggle up. What are you going to do when it is at your door. Are you going to take it? We may think baptism is something we do, but it’s about what God does for us, it’s a physical tangible sign of cleansing, example that you are a child of god. Here is a place where God draws us to himself, Note the physical words for eating in this passage. When we pray about our daily bread we open our life to him. Nothing in our life should remain untouched by the new life we find in Jesus. It’s a beginning a place where
we say yes to Jesus in a visual and impressive way. Our call to Paul on his baptismal day and to each one of us to accept this gift in our life.
We then moved on to the baptism of Paul. Paul joined our congregation after he moved to the town from the Midlands. He made friends with Matty “one dismal morning” after calling into the garage, then he started coming to church, then to our Men’s Bible study and got more and more involved with the church’s activity. Paul gave a passionate description of the struggle he had in first getting to grips with the Bible and the satisfaction and enjoyment he has now found in reading and studying the Bible and the reasons he decided to get baptised. We welcomed with joy his decision to get baptised today.