Wednesday, January 04, 2017
Reflections on Sunday's Scripture: Baptism of Our Lord, Year A 2016
Do you remember when you were reborn from sin, into everlasting life and the Body of Christ? I don't. It was the first week of September in the one thousand and sixty-seventh year of the Resurrection of Our Lord. I was just about two months old, and the priest baptized me in the font of St. Paul's Church in Lansing, Michigan. I was that last of my family to be baptized in that font, because soon we would depart St. Paul's and join in the development of a new church, St. David's. These have always been stories to me, accompanied by a certificate that was signed (illegibly, as most priest's tend to!) by the rector of St. Paul's at the time.
At least, that is the official, "churchy" account of my rebirth. The truth is, I have fallen asleep in sin and awakened again many times to a deeper life in Christ. All those presage the real, deep sleep we all must face...and the awakening to new life in Christ in the wake o the passing of time and space.
Do you remember when you were reborn? The first time? Perhaps the latest?
I am not advocating a heresy that says a sacrament meant to be "one and done" can be performed again to ensure efficacy. What I am saying is that baptism is something deep and dynamic. Once, done, I find it continues to be a vibrant force in people's lives. It has certainly been so in my own. Transformation begins in Christ, but in this life it is never really finished. Very often, it is serves as a nexus in life that marks an alteration of trajectory.
When we gather on Sunday to observe the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, we are acknowledging the profound willingness of God to enter into our lives, and to become a part of that process of dying and rebirth that happens daily as we slough off the calluses of our older, hardened selves and embrace the refreshment of a new beginning, a second chance....or third...or seventieth.
John attempts to argue with Jesus, when he arrives to be baptized by the Forerunner. Jesus defers...in order to "fulfill all righteousness." What does that mean? Jesus knows no sin, and yet he comes in order to receive a ritual cleansing of sin meant to prepare folks for his own arrival! It means, I believe, to be an illustration of God's deep, and total, commitment to not only life in the midst of us--but also to forge a vital connection to what we are to become. Jesus goes before us to show the way. On the way, we discover an awareness, not only of purpose, but of Life itself.
So at the least, THAT is the beginning of OUR story of new life in Christ, forged in our Baptism and renewed by His Love.