Sunday, January 12, 2014

Baptism and the Beloved Community

Today was the festival known as The Baptism of Our Lord, the first Sunday after the church celebrates the Epiphany. We recount a story from the gospels (today was Matthew's turn) of Jesus being baptized by his cousin, John.

In my congregation, they also use the day to baptize anyone who is ready for the sacrament. Today, we had a little girl---toddler age, I guess---baptized and welcomed into the "household of God" as the Episcopalians say.

Even though I now belong to an Episcopal church (I confess I'm not quite able to say I'm an Episcopalian---it doesn't yet come off the tongue without hesitation), my Lutheran heritage has a strong heritage in daily remembrance of our baptisms. Actually, one of the comforting things in my new denomination has been hearing, now and then, exhortations to remember our baptismal covenants. It feels very Lutheran to me. Yes, I haven't strayed that far from the church of my first 50 years.

But all that's beside the point.

In the baptism liturgy (the work of the people), besides the water and invocation of the Triune God, there are a lot of promises. The one baptized or his/her parents and sponsors make promises to be active in the Christian community. The community gathered makes promises to support the baptized in their faith. We are reminded of God's promises of love and life.

I could recount a few ways the church has failed me since my baptism.

I couldn't begin to recount the ways I've failed the Christian community.

And everyone there could, I suspect, do likewise.

I can also say the communion of saints have kept me alive a couple of times, and helped out in less dire situations. How I've helped the community is not mine to say, but I hope I have helped somewhere once or twice.

And today at lunch, I heard a woman say, in her current crisis (which is irrelevant here), after a lifetime of church membership, has never been cared for by a congregation as she has in this moment.

Sometimes the community gets it right.

And so tonight I remember my baptism, remember my part of the covenant, knowing I have failed it, am failing it, will fail it some more . . . and ask for the movement of the Holy Spirit, that I might support my community and that I might have the humility to ask for what I need.

That water leaves a mark. I'm still growing into it.


  1. I like the idea of a watermark. Makes me feel like stationery. Melinda

    1. I've played with the idea of the washing or the water that leaves a mark, but I've never went to "watermark," which is extra surprising, since I took a papermaking class in grad school and could actually make a watermark. I think. I might need a refresher. But yes, a watermark works. And it's okay to be stationery so long as you don't remain stationary.