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‘Our baptismal calling for 2023 – Draw people back to community and to God’

‘Our baptismal calling for 2023 – Draw people back to community and to God’
The Revd Suzanne Harris and Archbishop Michael Jackson in St John’s Church, Aughrim.

“Let us lift our heads to greet the New Year 2023”, Archbishop Michael Jackson told parishioners in Aughrim and Ballinatone yesterday morning (Sunday January 8). The Archbishop joined parishioners in St John’s Church in Aughrim for Morning Prayer and presided at Holy Communion in Ballinatone Church.

In his sermon Archbishop Jackson urged the congregation not to lose sight of the glory of Christmas and the majesty of Incarnation in the Season of Epiphany, pointing out that the radiant light continued until the Feast of the Presentation on February 2.

The reading from St Matthew [3: 13–17] sees Jesus being baptized as an adult by his cousin John. The Archbishop noted that by our baptism we are incorporated into Jesus Christ who was born at Christmas and we become children of God by adoption and grace. “This is what Christmas is about. This is the heart of faith. This is the core of belief. We identify as individuals and as a community with God. This is why doing things for God and for the church is worth it. This is why persecuted Christians face torture and martyrdom. We all are part of God’s plan for the world of God’s creation wherever we fit in to this same world of Epiphany,” he said.

At the change of the year he said many, while back at work, were a bit sluggish, a bit reluctant because the prospect of a new year filled us with a sense of exhaustion. But he urged people to make a go of the new year.

“Early grumbling is not a good sign! We need to give it a real try and a real go because 2023 is a new year, a year of new things, stretching out ahead of us. It is for us to make it work and to enjoy its newness. One of the downsides of almost three years of Covid–19 is a type of fatalism. The advances in medical science which happened in less than a year (and which might have taken a decade or more) along with intense compliance and exemplary self–regulation on the part of so many has left us in a place where we who have survived have a duty to draw others together and to draw them back to community and to God for the sake of the present and of the future wellbeing of all. This is our baptismal calling in 2023,” he stated.

The Old Testament reading from Isaiah [42: 1–9] invites readers to trust to the Servant of God who will pick up and protect the faltering, the bruised and the crushed for the sake of justice and righteousness. The servant proclaims that the past is a thing of the past and new things are now happening. The Archbishop suggested that this was a message that the Church of Ireland struggled with as it did not really want the past to go away even though new things were happening.

He said that the Church of Ireland could take up the message of Isaiah and Matthew – the relationship between justice and righteousness and tolerance and acceptance of everyone.

He concluded: “As St Paul says to the church in Corinth: … for the written law condemns to death, but the Spirit gives life … (2 Corinthians 3.6) The vision of today ought to stick with us. It can only gladden our hearts and inspire us as we go about our daily life and work: the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him … (St Matthew 3.16) This is the gift that our own baptism gives us as well and we are invited to use it – as the rugby referee is not unknown to say as he peers at the base of a scrum when not enough is happening. We could do a lot worse, particularly if our New Year Resolutions have already lost their halo. Today is the future of yesterday: Use it!”

You can read the Archbishop’s sermon in full here.

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