When I sit down with a couple for the big moments in family life, I often ask a question like, “Is this an event we are having or is it part of something bigger?” Whether it is marriage, or baptism of a child, or confirmation of an adolescent is this just an event or is it a part of something bigger? So then, let me ask you, when it comes to your Baptism, was an event or a did it start a process?
Many will struggle to choose one or the other, when in fact, I perceive that it is both. Baptism is an event, through which people are responding to what I see and the prompting of the Holy Spirit in their lives to make this step in their lives and in the lives of their family members. Where things tend to fall a part, is following through on the promises that are made in the service, both on the part of the parents and Godparents/Sponsors and moreover, on the part of the Church to uphold these people in their lives in Christ. The Church, meaning here the Anglican Church of Canada has not done a good job of teaching new believers.
When we are baptized, we receive a whole new identity – we leave the old life behind and begin a new one. We are dead to the old life, it’s idolatries and attending sin, and to death itself. We are alive to God the Father through Christ by the workings of the Spirit in our lives. We are, as new creations, called to live a life that is directed towards Christ and his coming kingdom. As a professor mine used to remind us, we are directed to live out both Christ’s death and resurrection in our lives, even if that means we die and rise again daily.
Something else that is important to all of this is the need to persist in this life after the Baptism itself. Sure. There is a moment and it is sacramental, maybe even sacerdotal. There is entrance of the newly baptized into the priesthood of all believers and into the community of the Resurrection that is the Church. It is within the community that we need to continue to grow, to be fed and to know the presence of the Lord Jesus. I say this because there is something that the Church needs to realize: until they belong to Christ, they have no part in us. Like when Peter, after refusing to allow Jesus to serve him discovers that if he does not, he will not be to participate in what comes next, so we need to invite people to come in and be served, then learn how to serve in Christ’s name.
I find it striking that none of the apostles demanded that the Church make disciples or that the Church fulfill the Great Commission. St. Paul for example, encouraged people to pray and give thanks to God and to make the time to cultivate the interior of one’s life by contemplating the inexhaustible mystery of Christ. The Church today needs what Robert Cardinal Sarah would call a ‘heart to heart conversation’ with Christ, in terms of conversion. Without such a conversation, there is no ability to remain under the discipline of the Master.
Renewal of the people in their faith leads to the revival of the community in the Spirit. If you want to see God move in your life and that of the Church community that you live in – then maybe you need to get out of the way. Jesus must increase, and we must decrease. As disciples, as followers of the Master, we are to be taught and to listen. We are to listen and to learn from him and one another. Then we are sent, and we are to go doing and teaching as we have been taught. In the going we are to raise the sight level of people by sounding like, looking like and acting like Jesus. People need to see the family resemblance. And in coming together for worship, we should endeavour to re-enter into the presence of the Almighty God and the worship which is constantly ongoing, not just seek to reproduce experiences in which we feel good or great.
It is not about how wet you get – but how you live and proclaim your baptism that matters. What matters is declaring who Jesus is for you and making him known where you are to whomever you know. Let us live it well in Jesus’ name and for his sake.