Baptism of Christ by Egino Weinart
This Sunday we celebrate the Baptism of Christ. Jesus’ baptism has been a complicated subject for Christians from the beginning. Scripture says that when he was a young adult, Jesus was baptized by his relative, John, in the Jordan River. John said that his baptism was for repentance and forgiveness of sin. So the question arose immediately: What did Jesus do that he needed to repent and be baptized? Scripture doesn’t answer this question. Rather, it dances uncomfortably around what appears to be the historical fact of Jesus undergoing water baptism, which, on the surface seems to be in tension with the claim that Jesus is the Son of God, and, therefore, without sin.
In the Christian church, baptism is a sacrament. A sacrament is a sacred ritual that helps us step into the story of God’s love. Baptism uses the symbol of water, which can mean many things: washing, drowning, life, power, chaos, creation, refreshment, womb. Baptism wraps up all of these deep meanings and helps to set us on the Christian path.
What we make of Christ’s baptism and what we make of ours, therefore, is a matter of interpretation. It can change and shift over time, which is what makes baptism so powerful and meaningful. When we baptize infants, it’s not so much about cleansing for sin as it is about welcoming an innocent newcomer into the family. At other stages of our lives, it’s a reminder of the commitment we’ve made to follow in Christ’s way.
As we step into 2019 as individuals and as a church, reconnection to baptism is a great reminder of our commitment and God’s deliverance. We don’t need to be perfect for God to love us, we just need to be willing to take the plunge and follow God’s lead as best we can.
A recommended resource on baptism and other Christian theological issues is Fr. Richard Rohr’s “Daily Meditations” newsletter. Sign up at www.cac.org.