We, too, have passed through the waters of death (Resurrection Triptych, Pt 3)

This is what I preached at the evening Eucharist at Saltash Wesley on Easter Day, 2013. The readings were those set in the lectionary (Isaiah 43.1-7, 1 Corinthians 15.1-11, John 20.19-23). It was not so much a sermon as a homily on baptism, and what it means for us. The room was set out in the form of a church quire, with rows of seats facing each other, the Table at one end, and a projected image of the font of Salisbury Cathedral at the other.

Salisbury Cathedral Font

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you be name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.

This evening I want to talk about baptism.
“It’s Easter!”
I hear you say,
“Can’t we just have a normal Easter sermon
about the joy of the Resurrection
and what it means for us?”

But what it means for us,
in part at least,
is baptism.

If Holy Communion,
the Eucharist,
the Mass,
the Lord’s Supper,
the Breaking of the Bread,
is the sacrament in which
we mark out our
re-membering
of the Lord’s death until he comes,
then Baptism
is the sacrament
through which
we mark out our
entry
into the Lord’s resurrected life.

Around the country,
indeed
around the world,
in the dark of night
and as the light dawned
on this most glorious of mornings
many were preparing for
and taking part in
their own baptism.

In the deepest traditions
of the church
it is at Easter
that Baptism occurs,
so that catechumenates,
baptismal candidates,
might fully walk
with Christ
through death
and into his
resurrection life.

To mark this passage
we use water,
whether poured,
preferably liberally,
over the head,
or alternatively
through full submersion
in baptistery
or river
or sea.

The image projected
opposite the Table,
in its traditional place
near the entrance,
is a font.

Not just any font
but the font
of Salisbury Cathedral.
On it,
though you can’t see it,
are etched,
one on each inner curve,
the four lines of Isaiah
that we heard read this evening
that I repeated at the start of this sermon.

Just as bread and wine
are effective signs
of the Passover of Christ,
so too
is water,
as Isaiah makes clear.

Our drenching in water
at baptism,
and it really should be a drenching,
is a sign of the abundant grace of God,
that grace which Paul
so frequently
talks about,
revels in even,
through which
we are given the opportunity
to enter into Christ’s journey
through death
so that
we
too
might live the eternal,
divine
life
not just in what we perceive as the future
but now,
right now,
in this place
and at this time!

And we recognise,
in our services of Baptism,
that God must play an active part
in this ongoing life,
an active part
we usually refer to by the term
the Holy Spirit.

John’s Gospel,
more directly than the others,
reminds us
of the link
between
the Resurrection
and the Pentecost:
in his first appearance
to the twelve
(though it was really ten,
since Judas Iscariot was gone,
and Thomas absent)
Jesus breathes on them,
giving them the Holy Spirit
and sending them into the world.

In our baptisms,
in that event
that marked our formal entry
into the Body of Christ,
in which we were
sacramentally
brought through the waters of death
into the new life of Christ
and given the grace
of the Holy Spirit
in order to fully live that risen life,
we were enrolled
into that very first
Paschal event,
dying with Christ
that we might live with him too.

In that first Easter God redeemed us
through Christ,
so that we might no longer fear death.
As he called Mary in the garden
so he has called us,
by name,
because we are his.
Through the Spirit-filled waters of baptism
we pass through the waters of death
and God is with us,
for it is same death Christ passed through
on the cross,
and as they did not overwhelm him
but were held back
by the glorious resurrection
of Easter morning
so they will not overwhelm us.

For Christ is risen
and Christ is with us
through the Holy Spirit. Alleluia!

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About MendipNomad

I'm a nomad both physically and denominationally, but I'll always call the Mendips home. Currently a Methodist Presbyter (Minister) in Cornwall. I love sport, film, tv, socialising, politics (both US and British), and, yes, being part of the church.
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One Response to We, too, have passed through the waters of death (Resurrection Triptych, Pt 3)

  1. Pingback: New beginnings – an Easter resurrection of my blogging habit | The Mendip Nomad

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