During worship on January 11, we celebrated The Baptism of Our Lord, commemorating when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River by his kinsman (some say cousin), John the Baptizer. During the opening song, after a reading about the meanings of baptism, our pastor and the assisting minister walked from the back of the worship space (where the baptismal font sits) to the front, and back down the side aisles. As they walked, they dipped branches from our now-gone Christmas tree into bowls of water and sprinkled it over the worshippers in the pews. I happened to be walking behind them, and noticed an interesting and unexpected (for me) thing. But I’ll come back to that.
As the worship service unfolded, I sat and thought about baptism, and I was filled with joy. Maybe that sounds weird or maybe it sounds “churchy”, but I’d like to share with you some reasons why I love being baptized.
I love the thought that when I was baptized, God claimed me, as in (I imagine): “Her! That one! I want her!” As part of the ceremony, the pastor says, “You are sealed with the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.” I love that no one can ever take that away from me, and that I am God’s child every day, no matter what my day is like or when I feel un-loveable by anyone.
Pastor Kristin compared that cross drawn on our foreheads to the stamps we may get on our hands when we go to theme parks or nightclubs. The hand stamps show that we paid to get in and that we can get in again if we step out for some short time reason. She pointed out that those hand stamps fade and wash away, but that the invisible cross drawn on our heads at baptism will never wash away or fade.
So I love that the invisible cross of baptism, the cross of Christ, shows that we are in God’s family- but that Christ himself paid our “admission fee” when he died for us. I’m not adopted into God’s family because I did something right, but because God did; God reached for me before I could reach for God.
I also love the idea that the indelible cross makes it possible for me to “get back in” if I wander absentmindedly or even run determinedly away from the family of God. In fact, the cross of Christ on my forehead reminds me that God never stops reaching for me and will never stop welcoming me back.
One of my favorite things about being baptized is the great big family! Being baptized makes me part of God’s family across time and across space and into eternity! Being one of the baptized (and remembering it) breaks down barriers of culture and race. It connects us to believers and Christ-followers going back almost 2000 years. It connects us to the great saints and sinners of the New Testament as well as to those of the Middle Ages, Martin Luther, Billy Graham and today’s Pope Francis. When I was in Bolivia in 1978, I saw how being part of God’s family broke down barriers between a handful of American college students and the Bolivian youth as we worshipped and played volleyball together.
And I love baptism because it is pure gift, given freely by God, using water that we cannot live without. It seems to me that every time we are splashed, rained on, showering or drinking water to quench our thirst, God is whispering, “I love you. You are mine. You. I want you.” Remember that I saw something as Pastor Kristin and the Assisting Minister flung droplets of water over the congregation? What I saw was that people young and old smiled as the droplets fell on them. They smiled in surprise and delight. Baptism and the waters that remind us of God’s love bring happiness and joy to human lives.
I love being baptized.
Janet Blank, Faith Formation Coordinator