The Australian baggy green is a significant symbol in our nation’s sporting landscape, and some would argue our Australian culture-at-large. The baggy green is held up as a symbol of sporting greatness and success, and is the embodiment of Australian cricket values and expectations.
When a player is selected for the Australian test team they become part of a select number of people to ever do so. Upon being selected they are presented with a baggy green cap.
In years past this cap was picked up when the player received their kit bag for the upcoming tour. Some players were given a number of caps throughout their career and many of the ‘greats’ have long ago lost or given theirs away. But in recent time, from the mid-90s, each debutant is physically presented with their baggy green by a former Australian test great. On the morning of their first test, just after the warm-up, this player is told of the significance of the cap and what it represents. He is surrounded by the others in the team, who congratulate him on becoming an Australian test cricketer. They watch him put it on and welcome him into the fold. As cricket journalist and historian Gideon Haigh comments ‘the baggy green means a lot to the current generation of players – they are constantly being told how important it is and how great they are’.
This baggy green is a symbol of what it means to play cricket for Australia. It is a symbol of elite performance and cricket excellence. But more than that, it is a symbol of joining the other 450 players who have played test match cricket for Australia.
In a similar way baptism is a significant symbol of the Christian church.
Baptism has played an important part in the history of the Christian church. Prior to the birth of Jesus baptism was practised by the various Jewish sects as an act of cleansing, for ritual purity. Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, led people in the practice of baptism ‘for repentance of sins’. And, Jesus was baptised himself, in order to fulfil all righteousness and share in this act with those who were to follow him in faith.
Throughout the New Testament the followers of Jesus have continued in this tradition and symbol of baptism. After Jesus was resurrected, and before he ascended to the Father, Jesus said to his disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
And from this time on baptism has been a symbol and rite of passage that takes place as one puts their faith in Jesus, follows him, and seeks to obey his commands.
But what’s this got to do with the baggy green?
First, like the baggy green baptism is a significant symbol and rite in the Christian church.
Since the resurrection of our Lord Jesus baptism has been performed as a symbol of entrance into the Christian community. It is through baptism that Christians were recognised as believers of the Way. When we are baptised today we not only join a local body of believers, but also join with the millions who’ve gone before us in recognising Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
Just as the baggy green is a symbol of an Australian test cricketer, a marker of their entrance into the team. So too, baptism is a symbol of a follower of Jesus, a marker in their life and faith.
Second, like the baggy green baptism has meaning and significance.
Through the act of baptism itself we acknowledge what Christ has done for us. When we are baptised, like many before us, we acknowledge the work of God in our lives and the reality of what Christ has done.
Those who have been baptised do so because through his death on a cross Jesus has paid the punishment for their sin. Through his resurrection Jesus has enabled true life, and a relationship with God. And by faith, those baptised acknowledge Jesus as Lord and seek to trust and obey his commands.
Going down into the water and coming up again is an imitation of this truth. It is a symbol of leaving behind the ways of the past and committing to a life of following Jesus.
Just as the baggy green derives its meaning from the players of the past, the values and expectations of what it is to be an Australian test player. Baptism derives its meaning from the person and work of Jesus, who died and rose again in order for us to know God.
Third, like the baggy green baptism is a natural part of being a Christian.
It would be odd for a player to be presented with his baggy green and then to put it in his pocket or stick it in his kit bag for safe keeping. The baggy green is handed over and is expected to be worn. To not do so would be odd.
In committing our lives to Christ and putting our trust in what he has done it is only natural to be baptised. To not do so would be odd. The New Testament doesn’t have a category for one who is a disciple of Jesus and not baptised.
Those who do go public with their faith are following a rite of passage into the Christian community from ages past until now. In front of a local church congregation they acknowledge Jesus as Lord and simply follow him in obedience.
Just as the baggy green is to be worn and acknowledges the cricketer as a test player. Followers of Jesus are to be baptised, publicly declaring that they are following in the way of Jesus and his commands.