Today I talked about baptism. You can listen here. I wrote the following for the newsletter:
Baptism and Holy Communion are the sacraments of the Church. A sacrament is an outward and a visible sign of an inward and a spiritual grace. Experiencing water, bread, and grapes is kind of like wearing a red sweatshirt to Memorial Stadium in the fall. The former symbolizes you are a Christian and the other shows you are a Cornhusker fan.
But something really special exists when a person is baptized. That something special doesn’t depend on whether the person doing the baptizing is a saint or a scoundrel. It doesn’t matter if the water is from the Jordan River or the Metropolitan Utilities District. It doesn’t matter if you dunk the person in a tank or sprinkle some water on their head any more than it matters if you pray sitting down or standing on your head.
Water is the symbol God uses for baptism. It is about the only thing I can think of that is more ordinary than grape juice and bread. Much of the world is water. It is something we are all familiar with. The meaning of baptism is similar to the water itself: life… power… cleansing… refreshment… hydration… beauty… flowing… gushing… filling… washing… exhilarating.
The word for Baptism in Greek is baptidzo which means “to drench.” One way to think about baptism is that the person being baptized is being drenched in God’s forgiveness, power, grace, and love.
We are baptized so that we can be identified with the righteousness of God that was re-established by Jesus. We need the forgiveness of sin which baptism symbolizes and makes a reality in our lives. In baptism we are given the same Spirit which moved over the waters of chaos in the beginning and which descended like a dove at Jesus’ baptism. In baptism we are initiated into the kingdom which Jesus established. We are baptized so that righteousness may be fulfilled in us.
An exasperated piano teacher says to her student: “You haven’t got it right!” The student holds his hands exactly right and fingers the keys precisely. He has memorized the music perfectly. He hits all the notes with deadly accuracy. But his heart is just not in it, only his fingers. What he is playing on the piano is a sort of music, but nothing that will start voices singing and feet tapping. He has succeeded in boring everybody to death, including himself. Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20) We know people like scribes and Pharisees—decent and orderly . But they are getting it all wrong, and the effects are terrible. Righteousness is getting it all right, if you play the game of life that way it the way it’s supposed to be played, there shouldn’t be a still foot in the house.