Where else could we start but with baptism, the start of everything, in the month when we celebrate the baptism of Jesus (January the 11th)? What could could be more fundamental to life than water, without which nothing can live? Water speaks of being washed clean of all of our sin and failure and starting again. It speaks of the guarantee of God's forgiveness in all that the future holds. It speaks of God's longing for us to flourish and grow and become the best possible me we can be, inspired by the example of Christ. It speaks of forgiveness and flourishing. We come to the font (from the Latin fons, a spring, a place of beginning) weary and separated from God by our fragility and failings, and by the sense that we cannot heal ourselves. We go down into the font with Christ in the tomb and we emerge, gleaming and truly alive in a way we have not been before. It is a new birth, a rebirth into the light and love of God, through the light and live of God.
This is the truth of who we are. The water is a visible sign of the gracious miracle and healing God is working within us. It is all about salvation, about making it so that nothing can come between us and God's love and protection. And God will not lose us ever.
The truth of who we are is God's beloved people. This is what baptism shows and teaches- that the death and resurrection of Christ (" through the deep waters of death") is our story because it binds us to God always and has broken down every barrier. The whole of the Gospel is here- God's outpoured love, God's free action, God's divine grace for you and for me. Who we are, our closeness to God, our confidence, our belonging to him and to the Church, begins with baptism.
And baptism builds a radical new community, a radical new Kingdom, of people of all types and abilities and backgrounds and attitudes and ideas. All of the baptised are one equal people, healed and then sent into the world to heal, to shine with the light of Christ. Whether we happen to like other people in the church or not is utterly unimportant. Whether we would choose normally to spend time with them is frankly irrelevant. I belong to God. They belong to God. Personal taste matters not at all.
One thing to think about
By the main door at St Paul's is a water stoup. Just inside the door is the font, which is deliberately kept filled with water and uncovered. It is an ancient tradition of the Church for people to pause at the stoup or the font, to put two fingers into the water and then make the sign of the cross on themselves. This is not a sacrament, of course, but it is a sign to ourselves or who we are, a reminder of our baptism. As we walk into Church we are pausing to remind ourselves that we are God's people because of God's action in baptism. We belong because of God's action. We are saved only because of God's action. We exist because of God's love and God's love alone. Think on these things as you pass the stoup and as you pause at the font, at the place of baptism, at the source of new life.