Baptism is a sign of belonging to the Church. The Church is an imperfect, loveable, sometimes infuriating, remarkably resilient community gathered together because of fascination with all that Jesus Christ showed and said about God. The Church is there for you, so that you need not search for truth and meaning alone. Young and old and in between, faithful and doubtful, enthusiastic and sceptical, we know we need each other.
Our ceremony’s ancient questions, preparing us for confident entry to the Church, are very boldly worded. Remember that they were shaped in an age when the Church was vulnerable and declaring Christian faith may have put you in danger. They are not calling for arrogance in our faith, then, but rather for confidence. To be sure you belong to God is not to imply that S/He cares any the less for someone who has not been baptised. The world can, however, throw a great deal at us. To this day we can find faith a struggle, our generosity under threat and our commitment ridiculed. The Church, therefore, still asks these strongly-worded questions in order to encourage, inspire, challenge and sustain us through thick and thin.
Significantly, among all the bold questions, there is not one asking how good you are. They all ask which way you look for help. They are about turning our back on the things that inhibit life, corrupt our relationships and narrow our vision. To look towards Christ is not to claim goodness, but to insist that God, not the negative influences around and within us, commands our attention. S/He is our guide, authority and measure for life.
The baptism celebration contains many words, mostly declaring our belief in God. Between the lines, though, there is a word from God. At Jesus’ baptism, St Mark tells us, when he rose from the water, he heard his Father whisper from heaven: “You are my Son, in whom I am well pleased.” While our faith in God may flicker from time to time, in your Baptism hear God’s affirmation for you. Even when you hardly believe in yourself, God believes in you. S/He can always work in us to make something good even out of the hardest situation, or most regrettable mistake.
More important than all the words in the ceremony are the pictures of water and light. Ordinary water is made special by a prayer that turns it into a picture-poem, full of meaning. By the end of the prayer we remember water’s power to refresh and cleanse, like God’s Spirit. We remember how frightening deep water can be, reminding us of death. The water of Baptism names our death, but then as we rise from the water, like Jesus stepping from the tomb on Easter Day, we declare our Easter hope that death is not the end of our story. That is why a candle, first lit on Easter Morning, burns beside the font. From it we will light your baptism candle to remind us of the light you will shed in the world as you hold fast to the hope and humble confidence our ceremony has enacted.
Contact the Parish Office (firstname.lastname@example.org) or speak to David or Tariro at church if you would like to explore Baptism. If you do, we pray that the Church will be as good for you as you will be for the Church.