18 June 2023
By Lauren Martin
The section of Paul’s letter to the Romans that we’ve heard today situates us in the in-between. The in-between of having accepted God into our lives, and the complete fulfilment of God’s kingdom. This is the in-between in which we, like the Romans, currently live.
Through Jesus Christ we have peace with God. A peace that reconciles not only us with God, but also us with the ‘other’. A peace not brought about by perpetuating violence (like that of Pax Romana), or looking inward. This is a reconciling relational peace, made possible through our continued access and relationship with God and God’s presence in our lives.
Through our acceptance of God in our lives, and participation in that relationship we are justified – that is made right – with God. Or as Jason Buckwalter said through Jesus ‘we have a standing invitation into the presence of God’s great glory where we will now make our home…. We are invited in and told to pull up a chair and make ourselves comfortable.’ This is made possible through Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
It is these promises and gifts from God that we acknowledge through baptism where we are united to God and to one another as Christ’s body. But what does this union mean?
William E. Flippin Jr. describes this union like a cup of coffee with cream. When added together ‘the blackness of the coffee and the whiteness of the cream are now integrated and made one. The coffee becomes brown because of the union. The coffee is not considered black-and-white coffee; it’s just a cup of coffee! When you drink it, you now have to drink the black coffee with the white cream because they have become one. If someone were to try to separate the cream from the coffee, there would be chaos in the cup. Once the union of cream with coffee has occurred, no separation is possible.’
Like that cup of coffee, we too, become inseparable from God. Through Christ we are changed and able to enter into a loving, life-long relationship with God. It is our privilege to celebrate with and welcome Patrick and Angus as they are baptised today.
As I’m sure Stephanie and Guy, and those who are parents can fully appreciate, children don’t always do what we want or what may be in their best interest. As children of God, who is the good and loving parent, we are also encouraged to grow and flourish, to share in God’s abundance, even if at times we do not always do what we should, whether we are 1 or 101.
We are not perfect, and neither is the world around us, we are in the in-between and as Paul points out, there is suffering in the world. God’s peace doesn’t mean that life will be smooth sailing free from all storms. Paul uses the plural ‘we’ as he speaks of suffering, and yes, we can suffer individually, but this can also be a reminder that in times of trouble we are not alone. Together as the body of Christ, whether as the community in Rome or today as the community of St Andrew’s Indooroopilly, we can support and hold up one another, building up, empowering and encouraging each other, as we are called again and again to love one another as God loves us.
Throughout history there have been, and continue to be, many examples of suffering, of set backs and of discrimination such as Ageism, Racism, Gender inequality, Religion, Disability, Marital Status, Sexual Orientation and the list goes on. Although we may not put our hands up and ask to be faced with such challenges, when faced with them we may find ourselves, as a community, gaining new insights into our character and what it means to live out our faith and that there is indeed still hope.
Hope of God’s abundant love freely poured out and given to us. This gift of God made possible through Christ, doesn’t work on our merit or some sort of exchange system, there is no way we can earn this gift. Instead, God meets us where we are at. God the good parent, desires the best for us in an act of eternal, unconditional love. Like the black coffee and white cream becoming one cup of coffee, we too are made one in Christ, at peace, loved and supported by God and by each other as the live out our call to be the body of Christ. This is the promise and hope we share, given to us through our baptism, this is what we remember for ourselves, and what we come together and celebrate today in the baptisms of Patrick and Angus.