Baptism: His and Ours

Baptism of a little baby in church

Baptism: His and Ours
Baptism: His and Ours

Baptism:His and Ours

If we’re under the age of fifty and are, or were, a Christian, we have been baptized. Our parents made the decision for us when we were born. But in this “post-Christian era”, more and more parents choose not to baptize their child. The stated reasons vary, but these are a sample of those I hear and read.

  • We don’t need church to be spiritual.
  • We can pray anywhere.
  • The woods, mountain or ocean is our chapel.
  • Nature is my church.
  • I was brainwashed as Catholic or evangelical Christian and I want my baby to make his own decision, rather than be forced into a religion he doesn’t believe in.  

Each of these reasons makes sense, on the face of it.

Unless, we consider the very first public act of Jesus.

What does it mean to be baptized?

The only sacrament that the 2.6 billion Christians in the world agree on is baptism-universally recognized as valid.

Why?

When baptized, each of us is left with an indelible spiritual mark. “No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation. Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated. Through our baptism, the Holy Spirit has marked us with the seal of eternal life. Perhaps for some readers, these words make your eyes glaze over. I understand for it requires a different vocabulary:

The Christian liturgy celebrates the Baptism of the Lord as the feast day which ends the Christmas season. Last Sunday, we celebrated Epiphany. Seven days later, the infant becomes a grown man about to begin his mission. For much of this week, I’ve been pondering what the church teaches about Epiphany and why the manifestation of Christ is three-fold.

  • The three seekers who travel a great distance, at great risk, to adore an unknown god?
  • The wedding at Cana where the jars of water intended for washing feet becomes the ‘finest wine.’
  • And today, His Baptism by the baptizer, John. Where the heavens are ‘torn open…and the spirit descending on him like a dove and a voice came down from heaven,’ You are my beloved son, in you I am well pleased.’

There are a myriad of questions, these are merely a sample.

  • Why is the peculiar interaction with his mother included?
  • Where, when told that the people hosting the wedding are out of wine Christ replies almost  rudely, ‘Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” Mary unflappably tells the stewards to ‘do whatever he tells you”
  • Why did he say he wouldn’t and did it anyway?
  • Why did he ask John to baptize him?

Recently we rescued a young dog and young dogs require lots of exercise. This morning in the sleet I pondered all these events of this past week as the dogs and I walked our four mile trek in the middle of nowhere. And considered baptism in a way I never had. As a sacrament meaning infused with the person of Christ. Because of the intensity of my focus, I walked on holy ground. The sleet seemed permeated with his presence. The very air was redolent with it. Normally my walk or hike or workout is just that. I walk on dirt and rocks and am unaware that the world and creatures in front and beside me are infused with Christ. I need sacraments to see that way.

But there are some who walk on holy ground with each step taken in their life. Mary was like that. So infused with the presence of God that she pre-empted his schedule. Surely she knew what this request would cost her and him- no less than everything.

But she did it anyway. Love for these hosts who had run out of wine on the third day of what was most likely a seven day event. Concerned with the mundane details of hospitality.

And his initial refusal? Perhaps a foreshadowing of the request in the Garden? A most understandable, entirely human reluctance to begin any sooner than necessary.

Maybe, just maybe, the baptism was as necessary for him as for us. Perhaps he needed to hear the heavenly words of love to stay focused on the holy ground he walked on. Maybe those words, This is my beloved daughter applies to you and to me? In us is He well pleased.

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