Over the last few weeks I have been walking in the Fremantle pool to help strengthen my back. One particular weekday I finished up at church and headed to the pool before going home. When I arrived I was surprised by how many children were taking swimming lessons after school. I felt very old and somewhat exposed. Here I was struggling to get changed into some swimwear, bent over, hobbling along with a crutch for support, my torso was so white that sunglasses were a real option if you unfortunately caught sight of me. I shuffled down into the pool using the rail for support and noticed how some of the kids had stopped playing and almost seemed paralysed as they stared at me. It was difficult to gauge whether they were watching with horror, sympathy or curiosity. It might have been all three. I was a sight for sore eyes. I just wanted to quickly get into a reasonable depth of water to hide and get some relief from the pressure on my back. Oh, the relief that came physically from being able float was bliss. The emotional reprieve I experienced, as I was no longer taking up the attention of primary-aged kids, was not quite as exhilarating but still liberating.
Last Sunday I spoke about baptism and what the core message of it is. I used Romans 6:3-4 as my main text:
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.
Baptism is about dying to ourselves, to our old self, to our self centeredness and dying into Christ as our Lord and Saviour. Once we have died, that is not the end; we are resurrected into a new life, a life that is shaped and owned by Jesus. The new resurrected life says goodbye to the old and we are reborn. The sacrament of baptism points to the works of Jesus. His death removed our sin and the resurrected life now offers freedom to all who turn to him in faith. Just as we go under the water in baptism, symbolising death, we rise from the water as new creations!
I didn’t exactly rise looking like a new creation when I staggered out of the Fremantle pool. Actually I was just as pasty, hairy and bent over as before. There had been a change inside of me though. While walking my laps and being overtaken by 85-year-old ladies, another middle-aged, sore-looking man was walking laps. Two big burly bearded men reduced to walking laps in the local pool . . . it was a pathetic scene! We looked at each other and before a word was even spoken it was like we understood each other. He smiled and said “L4/L5?” I grim-aced and replied “Yep, L4/L5.” (Those are the discs that are bulging in my back.) After we shared our stories of suffering, I reflected on some of the re-learning I had done that week as I prepared my sermon about baptism: I am a new creation in Jesus. I am able to cope with a sore back and with kids staring because he has saved me. He has given me new life, has promised me eternal life with him and I am the apple of his eye. This is true for all those who have come to faith in Jesus. We may suffer in all types of ways but, because of Jesus, we have a sure hope. Our Saviour suffered and he gives a sure hope that promises love, rest, strength, peace and healing, in this life and the next.
I am baptised! Are you?