Dear Friend,

Willowdale has received requests for baptism from several people who have risked losing their lives in order to gain life with Jesus. When the Holy Spirit opened their hearts to trust in the Lord, the government of their homeland, and in some cases members of their families, threatened them as enemies. The Lord has led them to Willowdale, and as they prepare for baptism, we can ponder what that sacrament means for us all.

When we are baptized into Christ Jesus, we find ourselves united with Christ in his death and raised with him into newness of life. (Romans 6) The newness of life includes a life-long and life-giving dialogue with our Saviour God. Jesus guides us in the dialogue of prayer by giving us what we call the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:7-15; Luke 11:1-13), and to begin each day by pondering those petitions gives vibrancy to our newness of life in Christ. As we unite with Jesus in prayer to our Father in heaven, we also encounter Jesus living to pray for us. (Hebrews 7:25) Jesus prays that we will grow in knowledge of him so that “the love with which [our Father] has loved [Jesus] may be in us and [Jesus himself] in us.” (John 17:26, adapted)

In addition to the dialogue of prayer, our newness of life in Christ includes an entire history of salvation, which we come to know as we study the Scriptures. As we pray “Our Father,” we may find ourselves pondering issues in our family. If we read the book of Genesis, we can experience God-with-us companionship in the troubled family of Abraham. As we pray “Your kingdom come,” we may find ourselves pondering turmoil in our nation. If we read the book of Exodus, we can experience God-with-us companionship in the tumultuous history of Israel. As we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we may ponder complications in our various relationships. If we read the Psalms we can experience God-with-us companionship in the prayers of David and other sweet singers in Israel. Prayer and Scripture reading give us a sense of God’s presence now and God’s faithfulness throughout all generations.

So our newness of life in Christ transforms our present and our past, and it transforms our hopes for the future as well. As we pray, “Your will be done,” and “Deliver us from the evil one,” we may find ourselves longing for the day when Christ will make all things new, and God will wipe every tear from our eyes. (Revelation 1 and 21) If we feel tempted to give up, we can find companionship and hope in “the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.” (Revelation 1:5) We can experience such grace-upon-grace both in our personal prayers and in our public worship. On Sunday at Willowdale, we will begin a series from Revelation 1-3 in order to hear “what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 2:7)

Please pray for our friends as they prepare for baptism. Please rejoice in your own baptism as an initiation into newness of life in the body of Christ. And if you are not baptized, perhaps you can come alongside the Ethiopian official who said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36)