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Paddington Bear

Family Service Sermon preached by
The Reverend Dr Joan Crossley
6th July 2003

The story of Paddington Bear, believe it or not, has very important things to teach us.

Paddington the Bear moved into the family home of the Brown’s. and he caused quite a bit of trouble because he got sticky marmalade all over the place, his paws were always getting marks all over the place and he had many adventures, but the Browns loved Paddington and they were all very happy together.

In Baptism we, as a Church, are doing something very similar to what the Brown family did for their new friend Paddington. We are welcoming the newly baptised children into the family of St Mark’s / Putnoe Heights.

Paddington, you will remember, didn’t have a family any more because his aunt Lucy had gone into a home for Retired Bears in Darkest Peru. I am glad to say that each child being baptised today is lucky enough to have their own family at home who love them and take care of them. But here at church we, by the rite of Baptism offer to become their brothers and sisters, the cousins and aunts and uncles of the child. We will care for their spiritual development, help them by teaching them in Sunday schools when they are big enough, encourage them in the faith as they grow to be teenagers. And welcome them into adult membership if they choose, when they are old enough.

Jesus told us that all believers are our family and we must remember that families have responsibilities, to be vigilant about the welfare practical and spiritual of all the other members. We cannot sit back and leave caring for our brothers and sisters in Christ to everyone else. That duty and joy belongs to you.

The story of Paddington Bear meeting the Browns reminds me that Jesus said very firm things about caring for strangers. Mr and Mrs Brown might have been a bit nervous about welcoming a stranger from Darkest Peru into their home, but they did it. Jesus told a story about a man who met a stranger on a road. He was not only a foreigner, but a foreigner from a nation which was at war with his own country and there were years of suspicion and hatred between the two of countries. But when the Good Samaritan met a man by the road who had been mugged and abandoned, he didn’t care that he was a stranger. He saw the need and stepped in to help. He didn’t think about his own financial cost, he didn’t think about the time he was losing, he didn’t even think about the dangers of getting involved with a stranger. These are the three things, money, time and commitment, that usually prevent us from stopping to get to know strangers. Jesus invites us to make strangers our friends, to welcome in the newcomer, to take the risk of moving towards and unknown man or woman. The ceremony of Baptism which we will perform today is a smaller form of the welcome we should extend to all souls we encounter in life, it is about shouldering the burden, light or heavy, of loving commitment to the wider family of humanity.

Amen

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