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AfterWords | Choosing Baptism (April 16, 2023)

AfterWords is a series of community-contributed reflections intended to further the conversations that begin during Parish sermons.

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A 3-Minute Read
by Lisa Goddard

I have listened to and read many messages and descriptions about the Christian sacrament of baptism over the years and what it means to express an identification with Christ’s death and resurrection through the ritual use of water sprinkling or immersion.

Jordan reminded me Sunday that Jesus was also baptized. He did not have to be baptized, but chose to be. Jesus did nothing to be repentant for, but wanted to demonstrate his willingness to take on humanity to be the perfect atonement for all sin and death. As Jordan said, Jesus didn’t need it, but knew we needed it.

Here, in Jesus being baptized, the wholly unexpected occurs. The more powerful One, whom John had declared was coming and would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire, comes to request John’s inferior and symbolic baptism of water. The one to whom the mind and heart must turn in a gesture of repentance himself teaches us that gesture by submitting to his own minister, to John the Baptist. He who is the living Kingdom of God in his own person, puts on the penitential garb and recites prayers of contrition for our sinful flesh, which he has now taken on. He lays aside his glory on the banks of the Jordan and, for the sake of humanity, prefers nakedness and the chill of muddy waters in the desert to the adoration of the angelic orders.  Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis

God affirmed Jesus’ baptism in a very powerful way. Immediately upon his baptism, Jesus came up out of the water, and the heavens opened.

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Luke 3:21–22

Baptism isn’t a requirement to gain entry into heaven, but through it, God is shaping a new creation in us. Jesus modeled baptism for us as a step in our faith walk and as the means by which we enter into the death of Jesus and rise up into new life in Him. As Jordan noted, baptism gives us a peace where fear, striving and control no longer have to dominate our lives. Just as He told His Son, God tells us, when we come up out of the baptismal water, “you are my beloved child.” In the words of Winn Collier:

If we are not grounded in the unflinching love of God, if we haven’t allowed the death and resurrection and new creation realities of our baptism to be our truest story, we will exert immense energy trying to get someone or something else to tell us that belovedness word. And there lies the deep. Without belovedness, the wilderness ravages us. Yet to really hear these words requires a baptism—a dark, murky descent into waters where we are drowned in love’s strange mercy. It’s where we come to the end of ourselves. It’s where everything we thought we brought to the game dies a devastating death.

Do you want a wandering identity or a baptismal identity, selfdom or the kingdom? The world offers lesser ways, while Jesus provides The Way.

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