Perhaps it was a holy coincidence that one of the last duties I performed before travelling to the diocesan conference in Derbyshire was celebrating the baptism of a mother and her baby. The Oxford clergy were called to attend four days of worship, workshops and lectures around the theme of Living Waters. Ezekiel 47 was the key text in which the prophet described a vision of a river flowing from the place of prayer and sacrifice. This place, the Temple in Jerusalem, had been desecrated by marauding Babylonians. It had lost its holiness, its heart, its appeal. The waters’ source was the altar and it gained depth as it travelled through the temple, outside into the precincts, offering cleansing and new hope.
There are various similarities between Ezekiel’s world and our experience as disciples of Christ today. We heard some distressing stories about Christian persecution in the Middle East and a personal observation of the Coptic martyrs who were slaughtered in Libya in 2015. It was described how they were looking out for each other as they were made to kneel before their murderers, how, it seems, that Christ was present at that time providing peace and reassurance of the resurrected life. They died together, courageously.
We do not have to endure anything like that kind of persecution in our own country. There is, however, a general apathy, if not, cynicism towards the Church of Christ. Yet, from the remains of the destruction and desecration, the waters of life flowed for Ezekiel, as surely they do for God’s people today. The waters of life, so pure, so necessary for human flourishing, are bubbling up and forming a stream of faith, running into rivers of joy and wonder. Flowing from our inner lives and from the fonts of new birth in our churches, villages, towns and cities, this water nourishes all who want to bathe in mercy, truth and love.
The baptism at St Michael’s last Sunday was just one example demonstrating the beautiful power of this tidal wave. A family at the heart, who don’t often turn up to church events but who simply want to know God’s presence in the oil of anointing and in the waters of death and new life. In acts such as this, the temple of God will be restored once more.
Learn more about the waters of life this Sunday at St Michael & All Angels, 8am and 10am. No matter where you are on the journey of faith, you are always welcome at St Michael & All Angels! Click here for news and the Sunday readings sheet.