Consecration of Building and Baptisms 1 Corinthians 3:5-17, March 3rd 2024

Consecration of Building and Baptisms 1 Corinthians 3:5-17, March 3rd 2024

Sermon at Service of Consecration of All Saints and where three people were to be baptized.  

By Bishop Norman Banks. 

As those remain standing here, the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to Matthew from chapter 28, beginning at verse 16,   

Glory to you, O Lord.   

Then the 11 disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him, but some doubted.  Then Jesus came to them and said, all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  

Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.   

This is the Gospel of the Lord.  Praise to you, O Christ.  

St. Paul writing to the Christians at Corinth.   

You yourselves are God’s temple and God’s spirit dwells in your midst. You together are God’s temple. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.   (1 Cor 3:17) 

Would you please be seated?  

That was lots of words this morning, wasn’t it? Well, what we’re trying to do, it’s, it’s to encapsulate, uh, as best we can, um, a great mystery. Uh, how is it that we can honor and express, in a theological way?  And from our hearts to what is going on today. And many of the words that we’ve used so far this morning have been used for generations, actually for hundreds and hundreds of years.  

But there is a way in which, although those words are important, it is very much what’s coming out of our hearts today that really matters.  So all I’m going to do for a few moments, because we’ve got so many words today, is just to pick out, uh, two or three things that we might just concentrate or ruminate on, uh, as this liturgy continues and as we go back out of this church into our community.  

And perhaps the most important thing of all. On a day like today, a consecration of a church, is to recognize and just hold in our minds. We’ve heard it so many times, but to hold it almost in a new way -that ours is an incarnational faith.  At the heart of what we believe is that God became flesh, that God took on humanity, and he came and dwelt among us. 

  It is the most radical moment in the story of faith amongst all human beings.  Because it, it changes our understanding of who God is and what God’s relationship with us human beings is.  You see, from earliest times, humans have sought out and set aside holy places. I suppose it’s because Whether people understood it or not, the fact that God breathes his breath into us when we are born, that the divine dwells, uh, in us, so that we become animate creatures.  

That, that even when people were struggling, or the very beginnings of trying to, human beings were having this relationship with God, it was trying to express the divine that is in them as well as the divine that is out. And of course, within the Judaic tradition, that came to its fulfillment in the temple in Jerusalem.  

And of course, it was a radical thing too for the Jewish people amongst all the religions that were going on and being exercised in the world at that time. That it was in the emptiness of the Holy of Holies at the heart of the temple that God dwelt,  and they honored him with holy fear.  The change, of course, for us, although we’ve grown out of the Judaic tradition,  is the belief that it is in Jesus  himself  that is the locus of the divine.  

And that remains a stumbling block for all other peoples of faiths who are trying to relate to God. For us, it is in Jesus himself.  It’s the most exciting of truths, that every time, I don’t know about you, that I think about it, there’s a sort of a tingling goes on inside of me, that God is in Christ, and because of our incorporation into Christ, God, in this active way, is in us.  

Not the passivity of his spirit being breathed into us when we are born, but this activity of God within us.  And on a day like today, when we consecrate this building in honor of Almighty God to remember this truth.  That it is we, the people of God in this place, more than any building that are truly consecrated in the Lord.  

Now that’s not to say that this beautiful building in itself is just brick and stone and wood.  Because it has been sanctified, not just by us this morning, but it has been sanctified by prayer over many generations before it.  And we are to inhabit it now.  And we honor all the prayers that has been offered here in past generations.  

But we are also expectant that God will bless us in our generation, in our time, as we care for this holy place. And holy it is.  It is holy because it is set apart.  It is gifted by God to us, while we, in return, gift it back to him.  We commit ourselves this morning to its honor, to its care, to its beautification.  

But when we do all of this, all that we are about to remember and to remind ourselves over and over again, that it is holy because we are in it.  This building is alive this morning because of our prayer, our song. Our reading of scripture, uh, our, our sense of the importance of being here together.  But we are the people of God. 

You and I are the temples of the Lord.  The service of consecration simply emphasizes what we are doing here.  We’ve marked, we’ve hallowed this building.  And it will be a place that will mark and hallow important moments in the human lives of those who find themselves here.  It will be a place where Christians will be baptized, they’ll be confirmed, marriages will take place, they will be preaching and teaching, and they will be sharing in the banquet of heaven itself 

in holy communion. You see, it’s more than just an envelope. It’s more than just a warm, safe space.  It’s more than a beautiful, passive piece of architecture.  As our prayers have indicated this morning, we believe that this is a place of divine encounter.  

And it will be in the stillness, in moments of stillness, surrounded by walls that are saturated in prayer, that the spirit in us, the holiness in us, the divine in us, can somehow be articulated, can somehow be expressed, acknowledged.  

Why did God make us?  He made us because He wanted to delight in us.  And when does He most delight in us?  It’s when we respond to Him.  We acknowledge His presence.  We begin a friendship.  A relationship.  Made possible through His Son, Jesus.  And that’s why, I’m going to end now, but that’s why. It is absolutely right that the first thing that we do after the consecration of this beautiful church at All Saints is to have baptisms.  

The very first thing that we are doing is adding to our number those who are baptized in the Lord.  You and I have journeyed here today and But we’ve journeyed all of our lives to today.  Each of us has a story to tell of how we find ourselves here today. And why are we here?  What is the point of coming?  

Why do we make that journey?  All the other things that we might be doing. Why are we here?  We are here because we know that we need God.  We know that he’s here, but in some way our relationship with him together with our fellow Christians can be deepened but we are also here because God wants us to be here, and he wants us to be here not just for ourselves and for our Christian community. 

He wants us to be here because he wants to send us out, He wants to send us out as apostles and disciples. He has gifted us a relationship with him, and he asks us to offer the gift back to him in the sanctifying of our world by our lives and our witness.  The final words of our worship this morning to our baptism candidates will be, shine as a light in the world to the glory of God the Father. 

That sums up all that we are about today, that we are to shine as lights in the world, both in this building and in our very persons  to the glory of God, the father,  that people will see in us something as they saw in those early Christians, they see in us something that they know that they need, that they want, that they long for,  and that together as the people of God, we will be able to share with them.  

So may this church of All saints always be a light, a light that others may see in us.  That all people in the end may be truly consecrated and sanctified in the Lord and in truth.  Amen.