Sermon preached at Mattins on 8th January 2017 by the Revd Helen O'Sullivan, Priest Vicar and Chaplain

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12:00pm Doors open for sightseeing
12:30pm Eucharist
4:00pm Last entry for sightseeing
5:00pm Evening Prayer
5:30pm Cathedral closes

Sermon preached at Mattins on 8th January 2017 by the Revd Helen O'Sullivan, Priest Vicar and Chaplain

Dress cute, wherever you go. Life’s too short to blend in, says the Chaplain.

I used to work for the well known publishing house Oxford University Press, the Press coincidentally, had its London office just round the corner from where we are now, in Amen Corner. And one of it’s flagship reference publications is the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.

From time to time the quotations which made it in as ‘new entries’ hit the headlines and one such came from, the ‘celebrity, entrepreneur and pioneer of reality television’ (her description of herself I hasten to add) Paris Hilton, who made it into that esteemed publication with what I immediately adopted as a motto, and this morning I would like to commend it to you. 

Now apparently Ms Hilton sued Hallmark for using it without her permission and I am afraid I wasn’t able to make contact with her this week, so …anyway here goes

Dress cute, wherever you go. Life’s too short to blend in.

You may well think that I’ve completely lost it and that this is a crass statement unworthy of an airing in any pulpit, let alone this one. Well of course you’d be right if by it I meant that we should endorse the ‘hello’ approach to life where people strive for and achieve celebrity status in rather questionable circumstances or simply by the output on social media, famous for being famous.

But I’d like to commend it to you as a more contemporary version of the scriptural and sacramental imperative that Christians be Christlike. 

Today we remember Christ’s baptism, though which Christ identifies with us, and in our Baptism we identify with Christ ….we participate in the manifestation of Christ to the world which we celebrate throughout the season Epiphany, and today in particular as we remember in the Baptism of Christ.

Dress cute, wherever you go. Life’s too short to blend in.

Immediately after Jesus’ baptism, before he has done anything, achieved anything, called any disciples, healed anyone, performed any miracles, God proclaims; 

‘this is my Son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased’ 

And immediately following our baptism, often when we are infants, helpless, and utterly dependant, the priest proclaims; 

‘you have been clothed with Christ, as many as are baptised in Christ have put on Christ’ (words taken from the Letter to the Galatians). 

In baptism we are all clothed in Christ. And in baptism we begin the lifetimes work of conforming ourselves to Christ. 

Dress cute, wherever you go. Life’s too short to blend in.

Life’s far too short and far too precious to just blend in, to conform to the crowd, to the dominant or fashionable ideas or conventions. Each of us is a unique gift to others, we should stand out!

Many churches take the opportunity of inviting people to renew their Baptismal promises today which I personally have always found very helpful, a kind of spiritual New Year’s resolution if you like. In the Baptismal promises we are asked to reorient ourselves away from darkness and towards the light; to stand up for all that enables us to flourish as human beings and to stand against all that undermines our flourishing - for he came that we might have life and have it in abundance (John 10:10).

Our readings this morning (Exodus 14:15-22, 1 John 5:6-9) both contain allusions to Baptism. The Israelites pass through the waters of the Red Sea from slavery to freedom; a parallel  being drawn between how we are held captive or perhaps are captivated by that which is not of God, until we find liberation through the waters of Baptism. Dying to our old selves that our new identity in Christ might be revealed. Not only (as the First Letter of John puts in) with the water, but with the water and the blood. The new life of the Baptised begins by passing through the water which symbolises both death and life.

Our collect today talks about our adoption as children through Baptism, the shedding of one identity and the apprehension of another. 

Perhaps as we celebrate this Feast again we might think a little about what is it that enables people to identify us. Do we stand out, why, what do we stand for.

Too often as a church we stand out for all the wrong reasons and we look anything but cute. We seem to have a habit of making ourselves look either slightly ridiculous with the fractious divisions or uneasy alliances across those who hold different theological positions, or anything but loving with our the inequalities which exist in issues of gender and sexuality, at best quaint and harmless and at worst intransigent and ugly rather than cute. How do we reveal the radical love of God which proclaims - you are of God, you are God’s beloved.

Perhaps the issue is that we have not yet heard that ourselves (you are of God, you are God’s beloved), truly heard it and believed it and live it. And in doing so becoming part of the manifestation of Christ to the world in our own generation.

Dress cute, wherever you go, because life is too short to blend in.