Summary: If anyone is in Christ there is a new creation - a sermon on this text for Holy Baptism and Holy Communion
I remember once listening to Radio 4, when Christine Hamilton was being interviewed, talking about the relative poverty of he life after her husband Neil Hamilton famously lost his seat in the 1997 General Election. It was the first time I heard the phrase ‘BOGOF’. She was, of course, talking about those offers in the supermarket when it’s Buy One Get One Free.
Today is a BOGOF day - one of those unusual days, quite rare in fact, when we’re celebrating both of the two sacraments in the same service: Baptism and Holy Communion. Two for the price of one. A sacrament, so tradition tells us, is something that uses outward and visible signs, to bring us to God inwardly and invisibly. There are many things that may do this, and we would rightly describe them as sacramental, but Christ instituted only two sacraments in the gospels, and these two we both share today.
In Infant Baptism, we celebrate God’s love for Maya, even though she doesn’t know it. How many of us can remember our Baptism? How many don’t? I was only two months old at mine - but we can still know God’s love us for us through the sacrament.
I’m sure that many of you are sorry that Gordon isn’t here, to see his grand-daughter; but equally, I’m sure that Ruth and Jill and their family know that Gordon loves Maya even though he’s not here, and they will tell her about him, as she grows up. In just the same way, although God is not physically here, he still loves Maya. As she grows up, tell her about God and his love for her.
In Holy Communion, we celebrate God’s love for us. In the Reformed tradition we don’t believe that magical things happen to the bread and wine to transform it into something else: bread is still bread, and wine is still wine. And yet, the Reformed tradition also teaches that Christ is actually present with us, here and now, even though the bread is still bread and the wine is still wine. What we do cannot be a mere memorial to death of Jesus, as Christ is still alive. So what’s going on? Through the act of breaking and sharing the bread, and the act of pouring and sharing the wine, God comes among us.
In both these sacraments, God can and does do things that are beyond our knowledge and understanding. In Baptism, God makes his love known, even if we are too young yet to know or understand it. In Holy Communion, God makes himself known among us, even though the elements do not change. God is bigger than we can know or understand, and is acting in ways that we cannot fully understand, and do not need to understand. Yet what we see in these sacraments is that although God is bigger than we know or understand, so is God’s love - so big that we cannot fully know or understand it.
Although we see signs of God’s love regularly in sacraments, the closest we ever came to seeing the fullest part of this great love was in the cross. That was an act of God to show us how great his love for us was. And the most important thing about that act was that God did something completely new. Never before had anyone who had died come back to life again. In the resurrection, God did something completely new.
This is what Paul is referring to in our epistle reading, when he talked about how when we are united to Christ, the old order has gone, and there is a new order. In Christ there is a new creation. In the resurrection, God made everything new. As a consequence of that, God makes new everyone who follows him. If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation.
Are we ready to become new creations? Are we willing to be made new? It’s quite a challenge for us. We all like the old pair of shoes that fit comfortably, and know our feet as well as we know the pair of shoes. If we buy a new pair they can be painful, and it takes time for our feet and the new shoes to get used to one another. But sometimes, once we’ve got used to the new shoes, we realise they’re better than the old ones after all.
This is the new creation that Paul was talking about. Being a new creation might not be easy or comfortable to begin with, but our hope is that it will be better than the old. This isn’t just a faint hope, like the bus or train being on time. We know of God’s love for us through, amongst other things Baptism and Communion, but most strongly through the resurrection of Christ, when we can see God’s new creation and God’s great love for us.