A while ago, when I was on holiday in the summer, my youngest daughter mistakenly thought that the sea was alive. We were sat on some rocks with our feet dangling in the water, watching the sun glistening on the sea, chatting and enjoying one of those precious moments in life. When I asked her why she thought that the sea was alive she came up with some rather plausible explanations:

  • Well, Daddy, the water is always moving, she said.
  • It’s teaming with life – plants; fish; mammals; crustaceans.
  • And, of course, water sustains life; everything needs water to live. Life produces life!
  • She went on… And if you leave a bucket of water outside in the sunlight life forms in it, so it must be alive!
  • And the best one she came up with (preaching to the preacher): But Daddy the Bible says there are ‘streams of living water.’ Actually that bit is true: Jesus said: If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ (By this Jesus meant the Holy Spirit who cleanses refreshes, satisfies and sustains us.)

Of course, water isn’t alive but in baptism water does symbolise life and yet is also symbolises death: Water is either poured on the head as a sign of being washed, cleansed free from sin, and beginning a new life with God – or candidates are baptised by full immersion: they go down under the water to show that their old life is buried or drowned in the water and they are raised to new life with Christ.

R. Ian Seymour