15 Aug The Promise of Baptism
Do you remember the last time you were in church for a baptism service? I’m guessing it was a while ago. Last Saturday, I had the privilege of attending a baptism for the first time in ages. The candidate was about to experience two life-changing events in two weeks: first, baptism, and then, the following week – which is today – marriage. His baptism marked the end of a long journey, which found its joyful destination in the church. As the last drops of water fell from his head, he gracefully looked up and beamed a radiant smile to the congregation.
In the words of the Book of Common Prayer, baptism marks our “initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body, the Church.” In baptism, God is present in the water and in the act of baptizing; in the power of the Spirit, God brings forgiveness and new life to those newly baptized.
I used to belong to a church where baptism was a regular, almost weekly, event. As Sunday came around and a new baptism was scheduled, some of us in the congregation would roll our eyes and say, “Oh no, not another baptism?!” Not any more. Looking back, I can see how regular baptisms became the means of growth for the church and the affirmation of our calling; at every service we recited our baptismal promises anew, and we were reminded of the covenant or promise we made to God and which God made to us.
Today baptisms are rare, which should concern us all. Some of this is due to the closure of churches during coronavirus, but when we eventually gather again, I wonder how many new converts to the faith will stand among us? Do you know of anyone who is not a member, who wants to join St Martha’s and experience the new life and love and freedom which Jesus Christ offers?
I always say, “God reaches out to us in love,” but when I think about it, I see how God generally uses someone else to do this “reaching out.” The promises we make at baptism include this one: “Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?” to which we answer: “I will, with God’s help.” I also say, “let God’s word do the work of teaching and let your example do the work of loving.” Is there anyone that you can reach out to and tell about the love of God in Jesus Christ?
As your interim rector, one of the tasks assigned to me will be to oversee our return to public worship, and I will say more about that in the coming weeks. However, when we gather again, at our first service I want us to renew our baptismal covenant. After so long away, it won’t hurt to remind ourselves what we promised all those years ago, and remember that we are a blessed people because, through God, we have been given new life in Christ.
– Father David