In our faith tradition (which some of you may not know is Baptist), we regularly observe the two sacraments of the Lord’s supper and baptism. On the first full weekend of each month, we celebrate communion together. Once or twice a year we baptize people at our summer river baptism or in our hot tub out in the church courtyard. A sacrament is just what the word implies – it is a sacred act we engage in with faith that somehow the divine meets the human in that event. Or if you prefer, heaven intersects with earth. These are not just rituals we follow because Jesus said we should. These are certainly signs of what God has done for us in His life and death and resurrection. We remember His grace and sacrifice and the new life He gives in these practices. But sacraments are more than signs. Somehow as we step out in faith into these sacraments, God meets us and our faith is strengthened. Something real and transformative happens at the intersection of the divine and the human.
I’ve always been fascinated by the story of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. After hearing the gospel from Philip, this man was immediately baptized. Philip shared the story of Jesus with this man and the way he told that story made baptism make sense as a first step in this Ethiopian’s new life. So much so that he initiated the idea, asking Philip, “What can stand in the way of my being baptized?”
For many reasons, in traditions like ours, Christians adopt a low view of baptism. “What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” is replaced with “Why do I need to be baptized?” We reduce baptism to something people do who aren’t afraid to get in front of a group of people. We need to recapture the sacredness of this event.
Baptism is an encounter with the risen Christ. It is the burial and cleansing of the old and resurrection into the new. Baptism is a sacred event where heaven intersects with earth and God makes himself known. Baptism is the New Testament’s initiation of people into Christ and into the Church.
Our annual river baptism is happening on June 19th. If you have never been baptized, now is the time. It doesn’t matter how much you know or don’t know. It doesn’t matter if you have every detail of your faith and life worked out. You have the opportunity to declare to all who are present as witnesses that you are a new creation in Jesus Christ. That’s a really good thing. You have the chance to show your colors. You have the chance to draw a line in the sand and identify with Jesus and with His people. That’s a really good thing. But the most important thing is that God has rescued you. He has taken the initiative and found you. The same power that brought Jesus back from the grave has brought you from death to life. Your life is now hidden with the risen Christ. Your sins are forgiven. You are a new creature in Jesus Christ. So, what can stand in the way of your being baptized?
I hope to see you on the 19th. Adult classes will happen on Sunday mornings, June 1, 8, and 15 during the 11:00 service in the upstairs library. Sign up at the welcome center in the lobby, or contact Lorraine Rothenburg.