This is the night when our Saviour Jesus Christ passed from death to life! This is the Passover of Jesus Christ:
Through light and the word,
through water and the bread and wine,
we recall Christ’s death and resurrection,
we share Christ’s triumph over sin and death,
and with invincible hope
we await Christ’s coming again.
This is the night we gather around the new fire to light the new Easter Candle. This is the night we move into the darkened church with our candles lit, the night we sing songs of resurrection, the night we renew our baptismal vows and then share the Easter Eucharist with the risen Lord. (And we get to do it with the Anglicans!) I love this night.
For a few minutes, let’s look at what we’ll be doing next—renewing our baptismal vows. We heard from Paul’s letter to the Romans:
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.
Do you see what Paul is saying here? Once baptised, we are baptised into Christ’s death. Don’t forget, ‘baptism’ really means to be immersed. It might not look like it our churches, but we go right under the water in baptism. We go down for the third time—in fact, Paul says “we have been buried with him by baptism into death”.
Through baptism, we are dead and buried—to sin. We are dead and buried—to the old ways of living. That’s what happened when we were baptised, even if we were baptised as infants.
That’s why Paul can’t understand it when Christian people still live self-centred lives:
How can we who died to sin go on living in it?
The scandalous truth is: baptised people, who have died to sin, may yet sin. We see that there’s nothing automatic about baptism. We may be dead and buried to sin, but the old self is still active. So Paul says:
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.
We have been buried with Christ. That’s done. Now, we are to “walk in newness of life”. But it’s not automatic. It’s not you are buried with Christ and you ‘automatically’ walk in newness of life, but you are buried with Christ so that you may walk in newness of life.
Once we realise who we are—people buried with Christ, dead to the old ways of the world—we can start to reorientate ourselves. We can start to live as part of the new creation that the Resurrection of Jesus has brought into being.
Yes, we fail, that’s why we need nights like tonight. A night in which we reaffirm our baptismal vows; in which we together proclaim the Faith of the Church in the words of the Apostles’ Creed; and in which we remind ourselves that we are marked with the sign of the cross. And where here, at least, we do it ecumenically.
Paul goes on to remind us of our great hope:
…if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his…if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
We walk in faith, we live by hope. We have been untied with Christ, one day we shall be like him. Baptism isn’t automatic, but it is grace. God redeems us; God sanctifies us; God will transform us so that one day, we may be his children in every fibre of our being.
What can we say? Thanks be to God! Alleluia!