A number of years back I had the opportunity to visit the Church where I was baptized. My parents took me as a six month old to be baptised at the Church near my grandparents because we were leaving the area and they felt it was important to have this done for me (to me?). if there is one thing that is important, one thing I want everyone to remember about being a baptized person, it is this: it is not about how wet one gets as it is about how one works to live it out everyday afterwards.
Think of it this way. I remember my ordinations and things about the nights that the Bishop ordained me deacon and priest. But as important and happy as those occasions where, I have realized in the days since that this day, this day after those moments, is the most important day. It is important because this is the day that I get to serve the Lord. It is a day that I get to, through the Holy Spirit, have impact on the lives of those around me for the sake of him whose Gospel we proclaim.
And that’s when it hit me – pow! In Luke’s Gospel it is written, “Jesus was baptized too.” (Luke 3.15-17, 21-22) The Gospel reminds and recounts that fact for us. In particular, it was the “too” that caught me off guard and captured my imagination. You see, Jesus, along with a good many other people, responded to the call to come and be baptized. I know that there are people who will react to the fact that he is the Son of God and if so why did he need baptism and the forgiveness of sin? He didn’t. Jesus chose to identify himself with us and our situation and he fully entered into our life and situation. We needed the forgiveness and he showed us how to start the life that would lead to reconciliation with God and to eternal life with God and all those who love him. He laid down the pattern that we as a community were to follow. God in Christ participates so that we can repent and be reconciled to God and to one another.
And let’s not forget that baptism is not a personal affair – I know from research that I did on a project when I was studying to be ordained, that there was a “crowd of people” there on the feast of the Transfiguration in August 1969. My parents and grandparents, various and assorted aunts and uncles, including my Godparents. Baptism is the beginning of life in the community of Christ for every individual. Coming for Eucharist is the maintenance not only of your own spiritual life but also the life of the community to which all and each of us belong. The Church’s community and ability to do what is it called to do is diminished by people not coming to worship and experiencing the presence of the Almighty in sacrament and word as well as in one another. Worship is the fuel that moves the Christian in daily life. Its like driving a car without gas: if we are to live without taking time to pray and to worship, Life stalls, cannot move and if not remedied, causes community and mission to break down.
Therefore, baptism is by no means a private activity. It is deeply personal to the person being baptised and for the family, friends, and community that gather to be apart of the event. But it is not left there. There is a moment in the Service where I take the newly baptized to introduce them to others, so that the congregation can meet and greet them – not just at worship but in everyday life and living. Baptism lived out this way means that we are choosing to be led by and follow Christ, empowered by the Spirit. We have to learn to see Christ in each person we meet and know. We have to soak up and drawn in the presence of Christ so that people can see him in us because we radiate his light and his presence. We are to be his hands, his feet and his face to the world, so that they can see and know what Jesus looks like, even if they do not know him or his presence. As we spend time with Jesus we will begin to look like, sound like, and please Lord, act like him.
Those who come to the call to repentance and who believe in Jesus are being empowered by the same Spirit that works in Christ, that was part of creation, is at work in each and all of us. Therefore, we are to live in such a way as that we sign the presence of the kingdom and to embody its reality in the life of the wider community. We do this so that people will ask, “what’s wrong with you? Why do you still have joy? Why can you still have hope?”
Baptism is a human response to the Spirit and the fact that God is at work in us and in the world. What will you do in response to him? Don't forget, Jesus was baptized too!