The Spirit in Baptism
I was talking to someone the other day about baptism, which is the kind of conversation that you find yourself talking about with people when you do the kind of work that I do.
I mean, it's possible that more people talk about baptism on the regular, and I just don't know about it. I guess I'm assuming an awful lot here, but call it a pretty good hunch that kind of topic doesn't make it into a lot of conversations.
So, I'm having this conversation about baptism and the way that some churches insist that you need to be baptized in their church community before you can become a part of it, and how most of those kinds of churches usually insist on "dunking" or immersing you underwater for it to be legit.
Full disclosure: My particular church, which travels in what is often referred to as the "Mainline" lane in Protestant Christianity, accepts into membership anyone who has been baptized--no matter where or when it happened.
And for anyone who isn't, we give them the option of being immersed or sprinkled. When I say sprinkled, it means that we just drizzle some water over your head, which also means you don't have to wear a swimsuit, and you skip the feeling that you're being drowned.
But just know... if you really want to be dunked, I'm all about that, too. I've baptized people in swimming pools, freezing cold springs, the ocean, and portable baptistries that look like kiddie pools.
Because it doesn't really matter how or when you are baptized, as long as there is water (because we need that as a sign and symbol) and a community to surround and support you. And in the end, it's the Holy Spirit of God that ultimately baptizes you, claims you, covers you in grace and peace.
And then, you live out the beauty and grace of that baptism every day of your life. It's an outward sign of something that was already true about you, to begin with. You are beloved by God. You are cherished and claimed. You have a holy purpose.
In his exposition on Christian baptism, Thich Nhat Hahn says this:
The Holy Spirit is something to be cultivated daily, and the seeds of the Holy Spirit are already within you. To be baptized is to have the opportunity to recognize that this Spirit and that energy are already in you. To be baptized is to recognize the Holy Spirit and to touch it within you.
I love that so much, and the fact that it comes from a Buddhist teacher makes it even more awesome. He gets it. He gets it in a way that so many Christians don't get it.
Most Christians associate baptism with membership in a particular church, or as a public proclamation that they are part of the elite, the "saved," the special and set apart.
And then they go about living their lives in small, narrow ways---never really touching the Holy Spirit within them, never really seeing their true worth, and the fact that God not only loves them but loves everybody who has the Spirit within them.
Which is to say--God loves everybody, because the "image" or Spirit of God is within every person ever created---no matter how they might try to deny that image, or the truth of their baptism by the way they live.
So live into the joy of your baptism today. And if you have never been baptized, call me. I'll help you make that happen.
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.