When a couple came to me last month asking if I’d baptize their child, I didn’t hesitate. But, I said to them, our community is now outside the bounds of any institutional theology or prescribed ritual so you are free to design a baptism ceremony that speaks to you… if you want to. Well, their eyes just lit up (I think… or her eyes lit up and his glazed over in anxiety, not sure). A month later we baptized their sweet little girl in a beautiful, unique ceremony designed mostly by her mom and dad.
As I discussed with communion last week, baptism is another one of those things we do in the church, but why? Do we just baptize because we’ve always done it? Does it still hold meaning? Does it hold the same meaning or a different meaning? Is there only one meaning? Why did Jesus instruct his followers to go out and make disciples of all nations and baptize them (Matthew 28:19)? As an inclusive, progressive Christian Church, what do we do with this?
Most of us have rejected the theological concept of original sin long ago, so we also reject baptism as the means for cleansing original sin. Children are miracles, blessings, beautiful, unique and filled with the love and gifts of the Creator. As humans, we seem to feel the need to celebrate this gift of the child into our midst.
So, here’s a thought, while John the Baptist was baptizing people for penitential purposes, to prepare them for the coming Messiah, when Jesus was baptized by John it couldn’t be understood to be for penitential purposes. Jesus was considered to be sin-free, so it wasn’t a cleansing of sin. And he was believed to be the Messiah, so he wasn’t preparing to meet himself. Instead, Jesus’ baptism was considered a theophany: a self-revealing of God in which Jesus is identified by a voice in the clouds as the “Beloved Son” and commissioned as the herald of God’s kingdom.
What if we considered each baptism today to be a theophany – a self-revealing of God in each child, in each person? What if baptism is the formal recognition of what we already know… that the God spark is in each of us and that we are ALL beloved of God? This ritual then helps us remember that God once again breaks into our midst in the unique child or person who is being baptized. And each time we experience baptism, we are all encouraged once again to remember that we – you and I – are each a theophany, a self-revealing of God. Wow.
Then, as Jesus was commissioned, so too are we. I believe our commissioning is to help usher in God’s kin-dom by living true to ourselves and living with love and compassion. In other words, our commissioning is to live fully in God. It’s something to think about anyway.
Namaste ~ Kaye