Friends, I invite you to share your comments on these Afterthoughts at the bottom of this web page. I would love hear what you think! brad+
On Sunday, we celebrated the baptism of Jesus.
this was launching point of His walk to the cross
and the discipleship of those who He called to follow Him.
Baptism is confusing to a lot of people.
What is it?
What is it not?
I tried to give some help in this area.
Hopefully, I was successful.
I wanted to say a little more about it.
Baptism can be understood in many ways.
As a way to salvation.
As a sacrament commanded by God.
As a purification.
As a requirement for membership and all benefits that come from that.
As an initiation into community.
And, in a way, it is,
to a certain extent,
all of these.
Let me explain.
My early years in the Church
taught me that Baptism was a necessary part of our life of faith.
Like, it was required.
It saved us.
Some people were really hard core about it.
They were unwavering about any questioning of that truth.
And, to a certain extent, they were right.
And to a certain extent they were not.
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
These are the words of Peter to the crowds gathered on Pentecost.
In this reading, we can see all the elements of baptism on display.
- It initiates the salvation of souls to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Baptism in and of itself does not save us.
On Sunday, I shared the story of the women who had bled for 12 years.
And her healing.
And why that happened.
“Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”
Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.”
Notice that Jesus says, “Your faith has healed you.”
Not, “Your reaching out and touching my cloak healed you.”
Her faith was manifested in the act.
It was about believing Jesus was who He said He was.
Baptism is the outward manifestation of an inward reality.
Namely, that we have faith in the redemptive power Christ on the cross.
And being baptized manifests that belief.
- It is something that is commanded.
And, most importantly, Jesus did.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”Matthew 28:18-20
Here, the word baptism is used in several ways.
The command to, literally, be baptized.
And the command to “immerse” people in the life of Christ.
Remember baptidzo means to immerse,
Like the staining of a fabric.
- It is a sacrament; a setting aside of a life, marked for the life of faith.
Many times, in the New Testament, whole families would be baptized.
Adults and children.
At different levels of belief.
It was a commitment to community.
And on behalf of children.
This is why we baptize infants and children in the Episcopal Church.
It is an act of faith by the parents that God will redeem them.
- It is a purification of sins so that we might be ready for healthy relationships.
In the Upper Room during the Last Supper,
Jesus took the role of a servant by washing the Disciple’s feet.
Peter responded…well…like Peter
“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
But Jesus reminded him of the need for his washing
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
Again, the act of baptism is an outward manifestation of faith.
Part of this faith is understanding that we need to be cleansed from our sins.
We need to washed clean.
So that we can be a part of the Body of Christ.
For that which is holy
and that which is unholy
Cannot be united.
- It is an initiation into community (and becoming a part of the Church).
During John the Baptizer’s ministry,
People went to the wilderness to be baptized and join the new community.
Jesus was no different.
In this excerpt from the Gospel of John, chapter 3,
John’s disciples are sharing a concern with their rabbi,
They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”
Jesus was getting more business.
Which is bad if you were a student of John.
And you wanted your rabbi to be popular.
But John rightly teaches his followers what he himself already knew.
Jesus was the reason for the baptism ministry of John.
And he was glad they were going to Jesus to be initiated into His community.
The community not of repentance,
But the community of the Spirit.
Which is an important understanding for us.
We are called to be baptized.
It is so important to the Church, that the Canons of the Episcopal Church
require it for the receiving of the Eucharist.
And through it,
We commit to immersing ourselves in the life of the Church.
To, as the closing Eucharistic prayer says,
“And now, Father, send us out to do the work you have given us to do,
to love and serve you as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord.”
Which brings me to a final question:
Do you want to be baptized?
Are you feeling the call to take this step of faith?
If the answer is yes,
Please let me know.
And we will all celebrate with you.