Saturday, 15 July 2017

Abundant Grace (Romans 6:1-11)

God’s offer is of abundant grace. However, that does not come as a means of dealing with our continuing and increasing sin – to respond to Paul’s rhetorical question, not that we should need to do that (verse 1), though Paul, of course, does so himself (verse 2). Grace does not appear as a result of a mounting pile of sin. Rather, it emerges from God’s amazing generosity. As God's love surrounds us, we experience something special that is best described as grace.

One of our problems is that we are insufficiently willing to rely on God. We are not confident of God’s promises. Paul here encourages us to move on in faith. We are in a different place. We are experiencing newness of life.

Paul uses the image of dying and rising with Christ, which he links to baptism. Baptism is an indicator of our new life with God. The symbolism is there whatever the method of baptism – but perhaps more obvious in baptism by full immersion when the waters close over the candidate, a symbol of being buried with Christ – and then rising to new life.

As a minister, I have conducted many baptisms. A few I remember; many, to be honest, I don’t. All, bar one, of those baptisms happen to have been by sprinkling. However, one that I certainly don’t (and won’t) forget is the single occasion that I have baptised by immersion. When we lived in Panama, one of the relatively elderly members of my congregation came to me and said that she wanted to be baptised, and she wanted it to be by immersion in the river ‘just like Jesus’. So that is what we did, a memorable and special moment – perhaps especially for a minister who is a non-swimmer! Baptism is baptism. Every baptism is personal and indicative of God’s grace. That was so on that occasion in a Panamanian river, just as it has been at the fonts in various churches where I have had the joy of offering that sacrament.

In each case, whatever the detail and individual circumstances, baptism speaks of resurrection, of hope, of possibility, of life. It is about unity with and in Christ.

Perhaps one of the things many Christians could do a little more often is to recall their baptism, to remember how it indicates the abundance of God’s grace, and so be inspired to greater things with and for God.

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