The church is packed, the baptistery filled the banner says “Here is water, why shouldn’t I be baptised”. After what seems like a short few months we’re back again for Tori’s baptism but what makes this extra special is it is also the dedication of her son Noah born not long before Christmas.
Give thanks to the LORD! Praise His name! Tell the whole world what He has done—His mighty acts on our behalf. Sing to the LORD, for He has done wonderful things for us! Raise your hearts and voices! Shout and sing your praise! For great is the Holy One who lives among us!
Based on Isaiah 12: 3-6
The service opens with that grand old Hymn “Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder…” played by Mary on the Organ and sung enthusiastically by the congregation.
Dedication of Noah
Tori, Simon and of course Noah were invited up to the front and introduced to the congregation. Noah is happy and Steve introduces the dedication by explaining that in the Baptist tradition we don’t baptise babies but instead ask the people who care for them their parents, friends and the church to commit to caring for Noah and to lead him in his Christian journey to his own acceptance of Christ. First the parents, then people of special interest and then the whole congregation were asked to respond to prayers of thanksgiving and commitment. Finally Steve held Noah for the final prayer. Now I must admit that Steve usually has the knack with babies and they stay happy and quiet, but not Noah, he decided to cry into Steve’s radio mic halfway through the prayer. Maybe he didn’t want to be left out and made sure his voice is there for all to hear on the video and audio recordings. With peace restored in the arms of his dad Simon Steve brought the dedication to a close by introducing Matt Redman’s song “Bless the Lord O my Soul”. Followed by the 4/4 time (drum) version of “Be Thou My Vision”. Last time I describe this song as awesome and it’s still true this time with the song rising to a final heart thumping conclusion beautifully linking the dedication of Noah to the other highlight of the day the Baptism of Tori.
The baptism of Tori
Unusually the baptism began with a bible reading and Steve’s message.
Reading from John 3:1-17. The story of Nicodemus the Pharisee who came to Jesus with questions about reaching the kingdom of God and was told that he would have to be re-born.
Now for those who hadn’t so far picked it up from the various clues in preceding slides on the screen Steve then introduced the unlikely preaching theme, the children’s book “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle.
“Do you have a favourite book you used to read as a child?” he asked and then went on to explain that Noah’s favourite story (well possibly Simon’s favourite really) is the story of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”; so much so that he has Hungry Caterpillar pictures painted on his bedroom walls and was even dressed up as The Hungry Caterpillar for some photographs.
It is fair to say this is a simple story that sets out to help us understand a deep truth so we can unfold our wings and fly through life confident in God. So how can The Hungry Caterpillar help us to understand Nicodemus?
By satisfying our spiritual Hunger.
You know spiritually for many people live is just like the caterpillar’s, you keep on seeking and are hard to satisfy. But the Bible says that we have all been created to know God and there is a deep desire in everyone to be spiritually satisfied. The trouble is that like the caterpillar people try to quench their spiritual hunger in wrong ways such as , money, success, power, fame, horoscopes, mediums and mystic religions. History and life today shows us that even when people have all these things they are not satisfied. Nicodemus came to Jesus asking these same questions and was told that being the ‘religious’ man that he was is not enough that to be satisfied he must seek out Jesus. As he grows Noah will get hungry, not just physically, but spiritually so it is a delight that Tori and Simon have brought him to be dedicated and have promised to allow him to grow and learn about Jesus because it is only Jesus that can satisfy his spiritual hunger.
By being born into a new life.
In the Baptist church we don’t baptise babies we give thanks for them but we do baptise believers, those who have made their own decision to follow Jesus. Tori is here today to ask us to celebrate with her that she has come to Jesus has let Him fulfil her spiritual hunger and has made her anew by His spirit. She is a new creation, a child of God because just as the Hungry Caterpillar came out of his cocoon reborn as a butterfly she has been reborn as a disciple of Jesus.
So when we baptise Tori we will celebrate just that, that through faith she has a new life through faith in Jesus.
Those who know Tori well will know that being a follower of Jesus has transformed her but the testimony of her faith is also a message that today, no matter where your spiritual journey may take you, that faith in the gift of life and forgiveness through Jesus is the answer.
Steve then gave the cuddly caterpillar he had been using as a prop to Noah saying “I want to give you this caterpillar as a free gift to Noah and that you use this gift to remind you of what I have talked about today”. New life in Jesus is a gift that is offered and needs to be received so I ask all of you, will you today reach out and take that gift for yourselves?
Heavenly Father, we praise you that in Christ Jesus we are a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come. Today help each one of us to not be afraid to seek answers as we come with our questions. Help us to come in faith and give us the strength to respond to you with honesty. For Jesus we thank you that in you all hope is found, that in you is life and that with you we can live life to the full. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.
Tori is originally from Clevedon was brought up in a Christian family and involved in the church all her young life. She was christened as a baby and decided she was a Christian at 15 and was confirmed. After this she went on the lead in her church and especially remembers an Alpha course she ran where she was inspired by the young people she met.
After joining the Police, however, she drifted away from Church and God – perhaps too much distraction, work and life and didn’t return for about 15 years.
She talked to many people over those years and found that many think that Christians look down on others which was at odds with her experience especially as she had been brought up not to Judge others.
It all changed when, through the auspices of Facebook, Dave Chinn invited her to his baptism and that brought her to Clarence Park where she stayed. At first it was strange, especially communion but in time it began to feel like home.
There have been many dark times but God has given her a chance. She never thought she would be a Mum and now little Noah is here and she loves him, her family, her friends and God more than anything and wants to say thank you to God for all that she has.
O Happy Day
Those of you who have seen Sister Act will know this song and the way it transformed a small congregation of Nuns. Well here in CPBC Tori transformed us by singing, supported by the music group and singers, her own amazing rendition.
Tori, Steve and Kaye went into the water where Tori was asked if she rejected the devil and put her life and trust in Jesus Christ. She was then plunged backward under the water and rose to her new life and rapturous applause. While Steve and Kaye prayed with Tori in the water the music group led the congregation in the worship song “Come on and Celebrate”.
While Steve, Tori and Kaye got dried off Mark led us in a prayer and then introduced a song that I’m pretty sure I haven’t sung since I was in school, known as the “arky arky” song. Which was, as Mark said, a lot of fun.
All that was left was for Steve to present Tori with her baptism verse and lead us all in prayer.
We closed with the song “Water You Changed Into Wine”.