This Sunday we’ll baptize three young people, two infants, Hope and Brooks, and a four year old, Reeve.
In our baptism we become a part of something special; baptism isn’t an escape from some nasty peril. Jesus is plain and straightforward when instructing us on baptism. He picks two simple verbs: “GO” and “DO” and he tells those who follow him to baptize. It’s really an invitation to a whole new look at life, one that takes seriously our part within the community of all Christians around the world.
Try not to think small. When we baptize, we baptize into the whole Christian Church on earth. Hope’s, Brooks’s, and Reeve’s baptisms may happen inside the Church of the Epiphany, but it’s not baptism into a parish community. It’s not even baptism into the Episcopal Church. The way I think about it, Jesus probably wouldn’t be much interested in us thinking so locally or narrowly.
Think about the awe some reality that on the same day when you or your children are baptized, so are other people in places like Tallin, Estonia; Cleveland, Ohio, and Provincetown, Massachusetts, and they’re receiving the same blessing. That’s a tremendous joy to celebrate. Baptized Christians call each other brothers and sisters because we share a common life.
Remember: We “do it” because Jesus said to do it. That’s reason enough to baptize. It has to be more than an act we engage in to please the grandparents, or to land a photo op for the scrapbook. It’s certainly more than avoiding hell. Jesus did not spend time speculating on the temperature of hell or offer clever means to avoid it. Instead, he preached a way of life that amounted to unswerving allegiance to God, our eternal hope.
You only get baptized once in life. It’s a permanent arrangement between you and God that gets renewed every morning. Your baptism walks with you for the entirety of your life regardless of how many personal ups and downs you experience. The trick is to live your baptism, or claim its strength, in a daily way. Here is a hint for understanding baptism: The act of getting baptized happens on a particular day. The day has an eventful character to it. You select a date with the church and show up. Your wider family and friends appear. The baptism takes place. Cameras record the after-service joy. A big family meal typically follows.
Living as a baptized person happens every day after the actual baptism. Upon awaking each morning, we get to decide how we’re going to live that day. Will it be lived with some of the jealousy, poor judgment, self-centeredness, or resentment that may have informed parts of yesterday? Or will it be lived with the invigorating sense that we rely on God’s embrace, and are powered by the Lord’s desire to help us be the best we can be? How we live each day determines whether our baptism means something to us or very little at all.
Three weeks ago I told a story to a group of Epiphanyites. It was about something that happened on Sunday, 13 December 1970, when I wasn’t yet three months old. Water was poured over my head, prayers were said, the Trinity was summoned, and afterwards, some cake was served. Of course I remember nothing of that snowy morning, but in the memory of God it was the most important day of my life. I once was dead, and now because of that day, I am alive. My job now is to live its truth, and that happens best with your help and guidance.