Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Baptize with Water

This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,'” as the prophet Isaiah said. Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing. John 1:19-28 
The privilege of baptizing a person, no matter what their age might be, is something that continues to touch and move me after all these years. We tend to baptize in a font, a bit of water poured over the head, accompanied with lots of words and prayers that are both powerful and meaningful. Other traditions baptize by full immersion which is powerful and meaningful as well. Some Episcopal Churches have started baptizing infants by fully immersing the naked baby into a large font. It too, is powerful and meaningful, although I would hope we might limit the practice to small children. Baptism is powerful, no matter how and where it has been done. It's a life changer, and although we may not remember it, we were remade that day.
We find ourselves at the beginning of John's Gospel. This Gospel was the last to be written.  It is, to me, the most poetic. It can be dense and hard to unpack at times, since the life of the church was in full swing when it was finalized. We do know that baptism was an essential part of the life of the church from the earliest days, and followers of Jesus prepared for baptism with discipline and religious fervor. There was nothing casual about baptism and it wasn't considered simply a rite of passage. It was life changing. We are invited to recognized the incredible power of our baptism. "You are marked as Christ's own forever!" We are the living members of God's family through Jesus, and no matter how we stumble, we still are called family, beloved and remade daily.

Today I ask God to help me live as Christ's own. May the frailties and stumbles of our present not define us but help us to remember how dependent we are on God's love and the community of faith. May we hold each other up as loving, welcomed and beloved family.

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