150 years ago our theological forebears fled their old life, their old country, and came to Australia swearing fealty to Queen Victoria. One year and three months ago 50,000 Tigrayans fled their country as war destroyed their old life. And today many Ukrainians are working out their new circumstances in fear and trembling. For them the old has gone, the new has come.
And for those of us who have led a life before becoming Christian, or wandered away like the prodigal son, you know the different life you are called to as a Christian. I remember an old work mate of my dad’s found out that he was a pastor, he swore in disbelief, “Greg __ Graham’s a ___ priest!? Yet all of us, whether from the womb or from later in life, have been brought into a new life in Christ. Reconciled to God. We were baptised into a new life, a life reconciled with God in Christ, the life of holy righteousness.
And now I’m going to go through what happens in Holy Baptism. First, of course, we gather together in the presence of Christ and hear His wonderful words. And in the written Word, He has revealed to us that we are temples; our bodies like the outer court of the tabernacle, soul the holy place and spirit the holy of holies where the presence of God dwelt. Yet before the Holy Spirit lives in us, animating and sustaining us; it’s not empty, though it is dark. And this is why the Pastor rebukes the unclean spirit, to make way for the Holy Spirit. This is why the one to be baptised, or their sponsors, renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways. For the old has gone, the new has come.
Then after prayer and the creed, there is the baptism, water and the Word. Now lets remember back to the second day of creation, when the waters above and the waters beneath were separated from one another; well in Baptism they are reconciled together. Like how we are reconciled to God. When we get water from the ground, sea, or swamp, it’s generally salty or brackish, and if you drink it straight, you’ll probably be sick. Think of it as water of death. Yet when water falls from the sky, it washes dirt and filthy away, and we collect it to sustain our lives. It’s water of life. So, the one to be baptised can be immersed in the dead waters below and rise up; being united with Christ’s death and resurrection, dying to sin and rising to new life with Him (Romans 6). Or the one to be baptised can be washed from above, being cleansed from sin and unrighteousness and renewed in and by Christ (John 3:3, the Greek can mean either born again or from above; Ephesians 5:25-27). And of course we can do both in baptism as a fuller image of what God is doing. Often in art of Christ’s Baptism we see Him coming up from the water and John pouring water from above. Yet still, it’s not the amount of water that reconciles us, it is God. The emergency baptism of spit is just as valid as the dunking and sprinkling because of His Word and work. For it is God who reconciles us to Him in Christ.
The old spirit has been cast out, the old Adam drowned; and we are reconciled to God in Christ Jesus. Now then in the rite, there is the laying on of hands, reception of the Holy Spirit and prayer for the newly Baptised child of God. No longer a child of this broken world, now animated by the Holy Spirit in Christ and reconciled to God. The old has gone and the New has come. Now they are a member of God’s family in the care of their parents, Godparents and congregation. We are to no longer regard them according to the flesh as Paul wrote, for they are a New Creation reconciled with God through Jesus Christ. And God has given them and us His ministry of reconciliation.
Therefore we, now, together, are ambassadors for Christ, God is making His appeal to those around us through you. So, as Paul writes, be reconciled to God. And be reconciled to each other. For God sees us all as His beloved children, and after all every human is made in the image of God. If God has reconciled us to Himself, then we love what He loves and want what He wants; and He loves you, all your siblings in Christ, every human, and all His Creation. Be what you are. An old lady is an old lady, not a young man. Just as your sin has been taken away today, live separated from sin. You who are baptised are children of God, so take after Him not after the devil. Be who God has made you to be, take your identity from Him, don’t let sin or death or the devil rule over your life for Jesus Christ is your Lord. Or as Paul simply states, be reconciled to God. For you are His ambassadors.
You are Christ’s ambassadors, temples of the Holy Spirit, Children of the ever-loving Father Almighty. In Christ you are not your own ambassador, temples of pleasure, or children of the devil. You are a New Creation, the old has gone and the new has come. So live in His reconciliation, with Him and each other; and make a good and loving appeal to those God has put in your life. And when you break that reconciliation, come back as the prodigal son for God will receive and reconcile you again.
And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and into life everlasting. Amen.
Pastor Joseph Graham.