Friday, January 9, 2015

Second-Chance Living

I usually listen to the radio when I drive my car.  On Friday morning I heard an interview on Radio National.  They were speaking to an Australian Lawyer living in Tel Aviv in Israel. 

More than 20 years ago Gidon Bomberg founded an organisation called Eco-Peace Middle East.  Through this organisation he is creating local peace between people in Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories.  He persuades them to put aside some of their political interests so that they can work together to protect their most valuable common resource – water. 

Water is a common theme in the stories we have read from the Bible today.  In the very beginning the world was covered by raging waters.  In the beginning of Mark’s Gospel he tells us about Jesus and John and the River Jordan.

Water is a very powerful image.  In our Old Testament Texts, and some of the NT ones as well, raging water is a fearsome thing.  It is dangerous.  It is something that can kill us.  That is why they use the imagery of God holding the waters back – to keep the people safe from its destructive power.

Yet we also know that water is a powerful symbol of life.  If people in desert places can access water they can grow things.  They can grow food to keep themselves alive.

The imagery of death and life are also bound up in water baptism.  Paul reminds us that we are “buried with Christ in baptism.”  When you think of immersion baptism, this image really works.  If the priest does not lift you up out of the water you will die.

Paul goes on to say that our emergence from the water is like a resurrection.  Under the water we were as good as dead.  Now we are alive.

But we are not just alive.  We are more than alive.

When someone has nearly died and then they get it back, they seem to live life differently – we might say more fully.  They try to make sure they get the most out of this BONUS they have been given.

This is the kind of difference all Christians should be living like.  When they are baptised it is like they have died and been given their life back.  And this new life is to be lived to the full.

Now, I am not sure about you, so I shall just speak about my personal experience.  Sometimes I forget this.  Sometimes I just live an ordinary life.  I need lots of reminders that through the water of my baptism I am really living a second-chance life.  I suspect I am not along among Christians in this.  Over the years I have seen many Christians trying to remind themselves of it often.

When we baptise someone in church we remind everyone of their own new life through baptism.

When we celebrate Easter we all renew our baptismal vows.  These remind us of the new life we have through the waters of baptism.  And the priest sprinkles us again with the blessed water.

Something you might see in some churches does the same thing – every Sunday.  In some churches the font is near the door where you come in.  The minister will always have some blessed water in that font.  When people come into church they can dip their hand in the water and be reminded of the living water we have received from Christ.  They might sign themselves with the Cross with their wetted fingers.  This is like the sign of the cross they were marked with in their baptism.

And every Sunday, when they come to church, they remember that this is their second-chance life.  They are called to live it differently.  Jesus offers us life to the fullest.

So, today, I have placed the font here at the top of the centre aisle.  I have put some water into it and blessed it.  When you come up to receive Communion you might like to take this opportunity to remind yourself in a physical way of this spiritual reality we are living in God.  Even if you do not want to take communion today you might use that time to come and remember the life you now have in Jesus because of these waters of baptism.

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