Thursday, September 17, 2009

Promises at Baptism

This week's scriptures are Psalm 1 and Mark 9:30-37.

This week we're going down to the Little Magothy River for our worship service. We're going to baptize Matthew on Sunday morning and we're going to celebrate this milestone on his, and our, journey in Christ.

Baptism, like Communion, has been the source of some major controversies in the history of the historical church. Many of these controversies about baptism have had to do with the idea that one's sins were washed away in baptism, but that sins committed afterward would still be held to the account of the individual in question.
This was a belief that had some christians waiting til right before death to be baptized; lest they miss heaven because of sins committed after their baptism.

What has this got to do with us?

The first thing is that the cousin of the theological fallacy above is still with us. It comes in the form of believing that our coming to Jesus is a one time and done kind of thing. The idea that 'we're saved, it's done, shouldn't be any more problems' is one that creeps into the corners of many people's thoughts about their own faith or that of others.

The truth is that we are entering a relationship. It will last a lifetime. It will go through seasons, changes, ups and downs. Baptism is not magic. It is a symbol of both 'new birth' and the 'washing away' of sins. But it is a symbol of something that never stops. In Christ we are constantly being reborn, changed, (sanctified-if you want the old style word). And in Christ our sins are constantly being washed away. This is all God's doing...not the result of the symbol. God doesn't act because we baptize; we baptize because God has acted and will continue to act.

To bring this a little more down to and I are on a journey in God. Our entire lives are lived in God's love. Paul says that God is the one "in whom we live, and move, and have our being." I going to mess up. In my case, I'm going to mess up a lot. But the journey doesn't end because I mess up. Because my journey occurs within the Love of God, I am able to go on, to repent, to grow. And so are you. Consequently, I cannot judge you. I may have an issue with your behavior; and I may confront that behavior (or you may need to confront mine). But we do it in love, because we're both on the same journey. Think about that. If we really take it seriously, it radically transforms the way in which we look at ourselves and at those whose behaviors we find-to be honest-really rotten.

Baptism is where we welcome another onto that journey because they've made a conscious choice about being on it; and we commit ourselves to being fellow travelers with them on that journey. They do the same for us at their baptism as well. That commitment shouldn't change...ever. Let me say it again. Our commitment to supporting them on their journey of faith should not ever change.

If they become addicted; our commitment should not change. If they develop a rare disease; our commitment should not change. If they commit murder, robbery, or a sex offense; our commitment should not change. If they divorce, go insane, become senile, or quit doesn't matter...our commitment should not change!

Why not? Simple. Because we are the Body of Christ. And when we accepted that task we gave up the 'right' to judge and exclude. That doesn't mean we don't hold people accountable. It does mean that we always seek their healing and act to sustain them on their journey.

We're coming to the water on Sunday to baptize someone. We're coming to make promises to him; and he to us. We're not going to always be successful at it; but that doesn't mean that the promises aren't there, or that anything ever releases us from the responsibility to try to keep those promises. They aren't a contract, but a covenant.

I'd be scared to come to the water if I did not come in the assurance that God will meet us there. For the greatest promises that will be made Sunday morning are the ones that God makes to and forever more.

See you at the water.

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