The Way of Baptism
I fear that many of us have missed the mark. For many … perhaps most … Christians see their baptism only as a cleansing. I’m dirty, so I use baptism to become clean.
For those of us who utilize infant baptism, it is the parents professing their own faith and repenting of their sins and then preemptively coating the infant in that saving grace so the child will have protective grace as he/she grows.
For those of us who utilize adult (believer’s) baptism, it means that those to be baptized come repenting of their sins and are then baptized. Sort of like sanding the wood down and then applying a fresh coat of saving grace to keep the wood safe.
It is about cleansing us and/or keeping us clean.
I am aware that this is a gross generalization, and most clergy would understand some of the deeper nuances of any form of baptism. This is, however, clearly a partial understanding of the baptism used by John the Baptist. Unfortunately, some just stop there.
But here is the problem: Jesus comes to do something new. His baptism becomes something very different. It is less about morality and it is more about connection.
Paul instructs us in Romans 6:3-4: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
It is about connection and belonging. We belong to Christ … we belong to a sacred community. The way of Christian baptism is about way more than morality. When we use it only like a refreshing shower, we miss what Christian baptism is about.
If we read further in Paul’s epistles, it is about assessing the broken places in our lives. For us, it is about assessing our own grief and loss:
- It is about assessing the massive death toll we have experienced in the year of pandemic with 550,000 people having died from Covid-19.
- It is about assessing our weaknesses and failings.
- It is about seeing and grieving the brokenness in our families, in our nation, and in our world.
- It is about seeing and grieving the racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, and others forms of hatred and control that continue to be institutionalized even in fresh legislation coming from our statehouses.
As we journey with Jesus to Jerusalem, it will require that we take only the way of baptism. It is to pick up all these things we have assessed and know to be real in our lives and then wear that brokenness and grief on this journey with Christ.
For you see, Jesus Christ connects with us through our brokenness, and most importantly, it connects us with Jesus. To quote Henri Nouwen, “it is the Christ in me that sees the Christ in you.” The Christ that is in Jesus, who goes to the place of pain, brokenness, and death, is the very same Christ that abides in us. That, friends, is the way of Christian baptism.
I conclude today’s thought with a song by Dave Warne and Zoe Fitch. It is a song that is pretty hard for me (those who know my story will understand why). The same is true for my family.
In this, we gather up our own grief and brokenness and ready ourselves for the journey into a week called Holy. I urge you to use it for a time of quiet meditation. The first verse becomes our prayer:
Hold me under water till I breathe in only you.
Hold me in the broken arms of all that follow you.