I'm a child of the 80's and 90's. When I think baptism, the first thought that comes to mind is in Godspell, where Jesus says to John, "I wanna get washed up!" I think about that scene in Godspell where everyone is running to the fountain to get baptized. The song that they are singing is "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord." Before they get to the baptism scene, the figure who is supposed to be John is singing. The singing radiates throughout the city. It echoes through the streets and alleyways, beckoning every day people to come to the fountain. The words to this song are literally - Prepare ye the way of the Lord.
Everyone gets to the fountain and are baptized. It's a time of jubilation as everyone is splashing around in the water. The people who have answered the call are everyday people. They are people who are living everyday lives. However, they have heard the call, have answered. This turns their lives from ordinary to extraordinary.
Baptism is good and right to do because God tells us to do just that. At the end of Matthew 28, Jesus tells us to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Baptism is a public declaration of a relationship to God. It is in baptism that we are born into the church - into the family of God. It is done publicly because it is to be announced to the world that you belong to God and God belongs to you. You are making vows to God and God is making vows to you.
In our baptismal liturgy, we are asked if we will renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of our sin. We are asked if we accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. Then, we are asked if we confess Jesus Christ as our Savior, put our whole trust in his grace and promise to serve him as our Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races.
These are the vows that we make. The church makes vows as well to nurture and support us in our faith.
The baptismal liturgy goes on to say: "through baptism you are incorporated by the Holy Spirit into God's new creation and made to share in Christ's royal priesthood. We are all one in Christ Jesus. With joy and thanksgiving, we welcome you as members of the family of Christ." These are the vows that God makes.
It is a public declaration of faith and relationship. We can even replace the word, "faith," with the word, "relationship." Relationship is what it is all about.
I've heard people say that they want to be baptized, but they don't want anyone around - that they don't want anyone to know. However, we should never be quiet about baptism. We never keep it a secret. It is always a public act. Think about it this way. If your significant other asks you to marry them, but then they say, "Yeah, I want to get married to you, but I don't want anyone to know about it. It's private and I want us to keep it to ourselves." How is that going to go over with you? You would probably be speechless from the shock at first, but then be angry because it feels like the most important person in your life is ashamed to publicly say that they're with you - that they've made a life commitment to you, but they're too ashamed to admit it.
Baptism is a celebration of a life and a relationship with you and God. And here's the thing: God does the work of baptism. It is God laying claim to our lives. While God already loved us before our baptism, it is God making it official - we are now one of the family. I have friends who have been through the adoption process. For a while, they fostered children. They took them into their homes, loved them, and doted on them. When the time came around, they signed adoption papers and made it official. In both situations - in adoption and in baptism, the ones being adopted didn't say, "Ok, I think I'm good enough now. I've cleaned up my life. I think it's time to make it official. Baptize me! or Adopt me!" No. That's not how it works. In baptism, we recognize that we will never ever be good enough. It will never happen. No matter what we try to do to tidy up our own lives, it will never be clean enough - never be good enough. And the good news is that we don't have to be.
Through Christ and because of Christ, we are worthy. It is the work of God that makes us worthy. Galatians 3:26-27 says "So in Christ, you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." Because of Christ, when the Father looks at us, He doesn't see our sin. When the Father looks at us, He sees his child.
Come to the water. Come to relationship.
If you would like more information about baptism or about becoming a member at Mt. Pleasant, please contact us!