“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
In baptism, we experience and partake in something extraordinary.
It is the belief and practise of a Church to baptise, to dunk, to plunge people into water, whilst promises are made.
Extraordinary yes! Weird? Certainly.
What makes rational adults choose to do such a brazenly embarrassing thing? In front of their friends and family too! In front of witnesses!
Not only is Easter Day the high point of the Christian calendar, but Baptism is the high point of human experience.
It is no accident that without water there can be no life.
It is not a qwerk of creation that water is the key to life.
It is not by accident that Jesus links Himself with Living Water (Jn 7:24).
So what does this all mean? We have all heard of baptism before, some have been done themselves; some have seen many baptisms and others have only seen and heard what the TV or the papers have said.
Christianity is about water; It is about Baptism. Most of our lives we try to order and control ourselves. We try to look good, stay dry; as our English proverb goes, we try to ‘keep our heads above water.’
This wonderful painting is by Christina Ramos over at christinaramosart.com
But then the Christians come along, obeying the command of Jesus, and say, if you want to follow this Jesus, you’ve got to, at some point, get baptised. It is to agree to not look good but silly; not stay dry but get drenched; not keep your head above the water but saturate your whole body.
In this sense it is sloppy and absurd. But it is holy (EP). It means something!
For all who’ve had children or looked after them: when they’ve been mischievous (the little darlings) and have gone over the red-line, they are placed on the ‘naughty step’ (or whatever mode you choose) until. . . . . they can learn to say. . . . . “Sorry Mummy, sorry Daddy.”
The effort we parents put in to get our children to see the logic and humanity of apology for wrong is astonishing. An adults iron will meets a child’s iron will, and normally the adult ends up in tears or in therapy!
But wise parents deems it appropriate that apology for ….(whatever), is a crucial part of growing up. When the child finally surrenders, they say sorry.
Baptism is a rebellious and broken human being saying sorry to their Heavenly Father. Baptism is about surrender; it is about giving in to the control we think we have on our lives.
It is as Eugene Peterson says, “a willingness to let go of balance and decorum and get drenched.” But what does it mean?
When a child says sorry to a parent for their repeatedly stabbing their little baby brother with a cocktail stick, the parent is first relieved that the ordeal, the stand-off is over; and secondly, that they have finally done what is right for their well-being and humanity. It is about a restoring of the relationship. And normally hugs and kisses follow!
In other words, the parent is desperate for the child to come to them.
In Baptism, a life surrendered to God, is a life that is immersed in doing what is right for our well-being and humanity. It is a restoring of the relationship.
A child saying sorry is a way of saying: You’re my parents and I come under your love and care.
An adult getting baptised is a way of saying to God and others: You are God, the Lord of my life and I come under your love and care.
We might be tempted to get all literal at this point and snarl: “It’s only a bit of water Rev, just a religious ritual, get over yourself!” If only!
It is deeply symbolic of the human condition (sin) and what Jesus has done about it (Cross and Resurrection).
We have loads of symbolism in our day. Take football.
When a footballer scores, let’s say Motherwell FC are level with Liverpool and Jock McTavish volleys in a 30 yard screamer! (I know….but try….)
He runs to the Motherwell section of the crowd where both fans have gathered; he runs clutching the badge on his shirt and kisses it repeatedly!
Now! He is either admiring the beauty of the embroidery or the magnificent artwork and colour of the Motherwell crest, or it means something else…?
It does mean something else. His badge kissing is symbolic of his loyalty to the club, his love for the club, his public declaration of service to the club.
Baptism is the badge of the Christian Church that tells us Jesus has scored the winner against sin and death.
And when we get baptised, we agree with Him. So in Baptism we mimic his death by going down and under. We symbolically leave our sin there, it is washed away. We rise out of the water as Jesus rose from the grave, in the power of His new life and resurrection.
And this is the way, as Christians, we mark our lives as not our own, but shared with one another belonging to Jesus Christ.
It is in this way that we share in his victory, his life, his joy, his salvation.
Like a rebellious child, it is the apology to mummy or daddy that reinstates us into the family community.
So with Baptism, it is this simple act that reinstates us into the family of God as we begin to recover our humanity into all the fullness that God intends.
The only fictional part of this sermon was Motherwell scoring a winner against Liverpool, but I hope you spotted that…..