I love the verses in the Bible that talk about God’s delight in us, about partying and rejoicing in heaven when people come to him. Jesus said, “Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.” And, in my favourite verse in the Bible, we’re told …
“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you; he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).
Most of the time it seems incredible to think of God rejoicing and delighting in us, but last Sunday I think all of us who gathered for worship at St Christopher’s got a taste of what that’s all about.
Sunday was a day to remember for us as we welcomed Rob and Tony to "the best family in the world - God's". Rob was baptised and Tony reaffirmed his baptism vows. When most people think of baptism, certainly within the Anglican Church, they think of a baby being baptised with a sprinkle of water, but Sunday's baptism was very different. For a start, it took place in the vicarage garden. Secondly, there was no font in sight, but rather a baptistry that looked more like a hot tub. Thirdly, Rob and Tony are adults, and there would be no sprinkling - they would both be fully immersed in the water. This would be no ordinary baptism, and it was wonderful to hear them share their stories of why they were making this declaration of faith.
Both of them did the Alpha course earlier in the year, which proved very significant for them in their journey of faith.
Rob had been brought up as a Christian, but he didn't fully embrace the Christian faith - it wasn't fully real to him. He was waiting for a "Damascus Road" experience. Something changed last year when he wanted to find out more about God, so he signed up for Alpha. He found it incredibly helpful, and he realised he didn't need a dramatic experience of God; he simply needed to accept Jesus into his life. Since he made that decision, Rob has experienced real peace in his life - he has come to realise that the words from Isaiah that he has in his room, "do not be afraid, for I am with you" (53:4) are true for him; that God will never leave him.
Tony had been baptised as a baby, but never believed. He read many books desperately searching for answers to questions he had about life, but his search seemed fruitless. The one belief he had always had was that there is a creator. Tony also did Alpha, and he found it life-changing. Over the course of those months, he found faith, and it has made a huge difference to him. Suddenly everything seems in technicolour. As he testified on Sunday, "I was blind, but now I can see." Tony wanted to mark this new beginning, the new life he's found in Jesus by reaffirming his baptism vows by full immersion.
It was an incredible experience for Tony and Rob, and all those who were present to celebrate with them, and it is a huge privilege to be involved in their journey of faith.
So, Sunday was the beginning of new life, a lifelong journey of faith for Rob and Tony. It was wonderful to celebrate with them, to welcome them into our family of faith, to witness to the difference that Jesus makes to people's lives today. It was a joyous morning, one that I for one will never forget. I'm so grateful to God for his amazing grace, and for the new life and transformation he brings.