Sunday, January 8, 2017: The First Sunday after the Epiphany when we remember “The Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ” | Written by Mother Mary
Back in my days of seminary, we were taught that as clergy it was not a good idea to close our eyes during prayer, but that it is better to find something upon which to focus. So when I pray with y'all, I look at our Baptism Font. There, I see a word on the font facing God's altar. The word is “baptism”. Constructed in 1875, just one year after this church was built, the rest of the words read: One Lord, One Baptism, One Faith. As I pray, I am reminded several times each Sunday that we are not baptized into the Episcopal Church, the Baptist Church, the United Methodist Church or any other denomination/church. We are baptized into Christ. With Christ, we die in the waters, with the hopeful and glorious promise that in so doing, we will be raised one day with Christ, as well. One Lord, One Baptism, One Faith.
Not all Christians believe as Episcopalians do. But it is one of the reasons I am an Episcopalian. I believe the Body of Christ, the Church, is far bigger, broader, and magnificent as well as mysterious than any one denomination or non-denominational church. And the scope, magnitude, impact and mystery of our own lives begins in the waters of baptism.
There is much to consider about the sacrament of baptism. The sabbatical that I/we have been awarded by the Lilly Foundation for this summer will have the theme of "Exploring baptism by the mighty waters of the Great Lakes." I intend to dive deeply into its meanings and mysteries. My application included an invitation to the entire congregation to do some reflection on baptism, as well. Therefore, I invite each household to take a dive with me. Please consider taking home a book by Anne E. Kitch called Preparing for Baptism in the Episcopal Church (there should be enough for one/household). Then I would encourage you to talk amongst yourselves around the dinner table about the rite of baptism. Share the story of your baptism as you know it (e.g., I was baptized in early January 1954 on the farm in Northern Michigan where I grew up. I have no memory, but my parents kept pictures. My sister, aunt, and uncle were my godparents). Talk about baptism with friends/neighbors of other denominations and even of other faiths. Come to Bible Study or a Sunday Christian Formation Class and discuss further there. And always let me know if you have some questions for me.
Here are some that might be helpful to get the conversation going: How does baptism speak to me each and every day? Am I comfortable to speak of death in baptism as well as resurrection in eternal life? What does it mean to be buried in the waters of baptism with Christ in his own death? The church speaks of a Baptismal Covenant, do I understand my part?
I look forward to taking this dive into the waters of baptism with you. I pray that all of us will discover opportunities for spiritual growth in the life giving walk with Christ from his baptism to his death and his ascension.
Peace and love to you,
Note: If you watched the service on Facebook, you will note that I have added some material. For the original, please check out Ascension’s Facebook video.