What it Means to be a Baptizing Community

January 13, 2019

On this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we conclude the Christmas season.  We celebrate the joy of the birth of Jesus and now His profound mission is to redeem us.  In this gift of redemption, we realize we are baptized into the death and resurrection of the Lord.  As He entered the waters of the Jordan, Jesus is recognized in this event of the Trinity.  God the Father proclaims Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit descends upon this event to verify what is to take place in the life of Jesus.  He is led by the Spirit into the desert, He proclaims the forgiveness of sins, hope to the hopeless and a life of favor living in union with God.

In the very act of Baptism we recall the summoning of God into the death and resurrection of our lives and we are to enter into this union through water.  It is a new birth.  It is a joy to know life does not end with death.  It is not hopeless and all is not damnation after death.  Jesus changes this.  So as a Church we are a Baptizing community.  It is the entrance into a life with God, it washes away original sin so we can enter most fully into a relationship with the God the Creator, the Son and the continuing movement of the Holy Spirit.  But what is the stark reality of this Sacrament, the doorway to all the other Sacraments that we receive, is that we are entering the waters of death and entering new life.  The power of death is around us.  At times we try to live our lives not focused or absorbed by it, however it is inevitable in all of our lives.  This is at the core of why we are a Baptizing community.  In Baptism we are not ending the story of life with physical death.  We are proclaiming life after death, life after sin. This is at our core.

Mark Twain once said, “I know that everyone dies, but I always thought an exception would be made in my case.”  Sometimes we live this way.  The questioning of suffering and its meaning, the question of why God allows tragedy and indignity to happen is surrounded by this reality.  For us as a Baptizing community, we are not called to see death as an end, nor are we to allow it to destroy our relationship with God.  The ritual of Baptism has profound meaning.  We are accepting a new vision of the world, not one held by society.  This is what Jesus tried to share when He said, blessed are the poor.  Blessed are those who hunger or thirst.  The things of this world are powerful and have significant influence, yet we live in the paradox where they do not have ultimate power.  They do not have ultimate meaning.

We all live as if life will go on forever, and it does.  Yet not as we know it.  Our body is just a dwelling place for the soul.  This soul has only one home, union with God, which is why we are restless, it is why we feel that we do not belong and we cannot understand.  When we say yes to Baptism, we are saying yes to believing and not explaining.  We are saying yes to trusting and not being reassured.  We are hoping beyond anything this world can give.  There is a treasure packed inside Baptism that we are to take a lifetime exploring.

What does it mean to be a Baptizing community?  Everything!

Reverend  John J. Ouper