Sunday, July 23, 2017

The waters of Death

Sermon for the Sixth Sunday after Trinity

Did you know that you are dead?

That may sound rather distressing, especially since so many people die every day in so many and varied ways, so many dying in horrible circumstances. Each one of us loses someone we love. We are hurt, wounded, and scarred by their passing. The fact remains that, if you are baptised, then you are already dead. Further, you are dead, and you should be happy about it!

Why is that a difficult thing to hear?


Perhaps it’s difficult because of the sheer gulf of difference between being baptised and dying. How on earth can we liken the end of our lives with having a bit of water splashed on our heads? Death is something to fear, to be avoided; the thought terrifies us; it gives us grief. Many of us don’t even remember our baptism and, if we do, it probably wasn’t a traumatic experience, certainly not on the same level as death. You may be distressed now just thinking of it for yourself and your loved ones. Isn’t it so cheap to compare baptism to death? Isn’t it patronising and glib? If you feel that way now, then you clearly care deeply about the lives of those around you. That makes you a great Christian. However, be aware now, there is so much good news!


St Paul says, “Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death;” We remember the agonising and humiliating death of Our Lord Jesus. We remember that everything that He has is stripped from Him to reduce His humanity to make it easier to kill Him. We remember how He is mocked, beaten, His words turned against Him. He is stripped naked, nailed, and His pain laughed at. But this isn’t His death. The horror is that this is the end of His life. It is only after these things happen that He dies. And this is the death that we are baptised into.

God comes into the world knowing what awaits Him. He chooses it despite the pain and torment so that all who suffer in life might know that He loves them in their hurt and pain. Just as Jesus is baptised so that in His baptism we can be baptised, He dies an awful death so that our suffering and pain is given an incalculable meaning and dignity. We are baptised into His death so that our own death is less something to suffer, but something to embrace so that “like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life”. Just as His death results in a glorious resurrection, so too our death with all its terror will be an end of torment and the beginning of great joy in Him. God becomes man so that man can become God.


You see so much death on our televisions and online, and you care deeply because you value human life so much, just as Jesus wants you to, just as Jesus Himself does. Yet while it may be such a little thing to have water poured on your head, what Baptism actually achieves is vast and more significant than death.
When you are baptised, you become one with the Body of Christ which is the Church; your sanctification starts here; your sins are forgiven and any further sins can be forgiven when you repent. Baptism means that your death, and the deaths of all other baptised folk, are bound up in the Death of Our Lord and His Resurrection. Having water poured on you is not (usually) painful, but what happens when it does is greater than death can ever be.


Many people today fear death because they believe that it’s the end. If really were the end, then what would be the point of living? This lifeless life of so many in the world is distressing for Christians to see. We need to live our lives, knowing that we will die, but that our death will be of little consequence compared to the life we have in Christ. We do need to live that as a reality. We mourn with those who mourn because they need that support when their loved one is gone. Yet, we should show in our lives that our death is somehow a greater life within living.
We believe in the resurrection of the dead.

Don’t we?

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