On Sunday, I will be preaching from Romans 6, a passage that has proven very meaningful to me, as I've tried to understand the baptismal experience. There have been, in recent weeks, a number of lectionary texts that have baptismal implications. In Matthew 28, Jesus commissions the disciples to go into the world and make more disciples by baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit (the gospel reading for Trinity Sunday). Pentecost, of course, includes Peter's sermon in Acts 2, that eventuates in a call to be baptized.
38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” 40 And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. (Acts 2:38-41).
Now, we have Paul's reflection on the relationship of baptism and freedom from the hold of sin on the lives of the followers of Jesus.
3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3-4)
With these texts in mind, I would like to invite a conversation about baptism. I've written on this topic on this site a number of times. Although I was first baptized as an infant in the Episcopal Church, and only as a teenager at a church camp was I immersed, I'm on record, as embracing a believer's baptism theology, with the practice of immersion. That is the practice of my denomination, though we also practice open membership, by which we accept the baptisms of those who come to us from other traditions that practice infant baptism and methods other than immersion. The result, of course, is that we don't do nearly as my baptisms as we did years ago. Many of our members were, like me, baptized as infants. They may be coming back to the church after long absence, but they were baptized and its not our practice to rebaptize.
The unfortunate consequence is that for many our Disciple churches baptism is a rare occurrence and thus we don't have opportunity to reflect on its meaning. We don't have opportunity to reaffirm our baptisms. So, I'm going to use this opportunity this week to do a bit of exploration of baptism. I invite you to join me in the reflection.
I should note that I was invited to rewrite the brief pamphlet that the Disciples offer congregations to share with members and prospective candidates. This pamphlet, along with others, is available from Chalice Press.