Saturday, August 21, 2004

Baptism again 2

Baptism again!     2

In his letter to the Church at Rome (Romans 6:2-11) the apostle Paul tells us we're baptized into Jesus' death and resurrection; we're marked forever with the mark of the tomb and the mark of the empty grave. In the epistle to the Galatian assembly, (Galatians 3:28) Paul says we're baptized into an inclusive community, a community without any borders or barriers to fully belonging. Because it holds the enduring promise of the everlasting Word of God, Baptism has a definitive, unrepeatable character: in addition to the binding quality of God's Word given to us in the font of life, there is "One Baptism," (Ephesians 4:5) so we need to be baptized only a single time; there is "One Baptism" so whether you're baptized in a church that defines itself as some kind of protestant, as Roman Catholic, Orthodox, or simply as evangelical or other or just plain independent, there's never any need to repeat the baptism. Just as we speak of the "Christ Event" when we talk about God's invasion into human history with the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus the Christ, we also can speak of the "event" of our baptism: the eternal, transcendent God, the God beyond time and beyond history once again enters human history, coming into each of our lives, and becomes present to us, revealing Herself in the everyday activities of our daily lives. Baptism transforms us forever! We're both dead and alive: the apostle Paul says, "Dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus." (Romans 6:11) Like the Israelites of the Exodus, we're at the same time both wet and dry. (Exodus 14:22) Both free from all peoples yet slave to all. (Romans 6:18; 1 Corinthians 9:19) Central to Paul's theology is his conviction our human Redeemer, Jesus, becomes the Divine Christ, God Himself, in his death and resurrection. (Romans 1:4) Central to Paul's theology is his conviction that we, the people of God, are Christed, meaning we ourselves become the Christ so we can live as the Christ, as we are baptized into Jesus' death and resurrection, into Good Friday and into Easter. (Romans 6:2-11) For Paul of Tarsus—and for us—Jesus of Nazareth, the man of Galilee, our Crucified and Risen Lord, our Lord of Life, is always at the same time both the Crucified and risen One. In fact, for Paul the Gospel is Death and Resurrection! In baptism, we become Gospel; we become Good News! In this daily Christian walk by trust in the Son of God we constantly dance both as people of the cross and as persons of the empty grave of Easter dawn!

In baptism we've been drowned in the font, drowned and revived in the fountain of the River of Life (Revelation 22:1). We've been crucified on the tree of death, the cross that paradoxically at the same time is the tree that bears the fruit of the healing of nations, the life, the healing and the reconciliation of all. The tree that at the same time is the Tree of Life: in the words of the Colonial American hymn, the Tree that is "Jesus Christ, the Apple Tree." No longer is the tree our separation and our "fall" from Paradise but the Tree of the Cross is our entryway into the Paradise of covenanted community. (Revelation 22:2) We are drowned in the floodwaters to be the Christ who suffers, grieves and rejoices with every breath creation takes, with every step creation makes. We are baptized to be the covenant community of the Living God, people of the Holy One of Being; we are baptized for events such as September 11; we are baptized for times of loss and grief and sorrow; God leads us to the tomb of death and font of life in order to reveal and make real the promised presence of Jesus the Christ. We are baptized to be the Body of the at once crucified and risen Christ to the world, to speak the redemptive and redeeming Word of Life, the Word God promises never will return to Him empty. We are baptized to be who we were created to be: in covenant with our Creator and with one another. "To glorify God and fully to enjoy Him forever," in the celebrated answer to the first question in the Westminster Catechism.

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