Rethinking – ‘And now the mark of Christ is upon you’

‘Little children, you belong to God. You always have and you always will be, and now you have the mark of Christ. “I have read of a priest who utters these beautiful words to every child who is baptized.

Last Sunday our focus was on Jesus’ baptism. His baptism was to take time and make room for the moment of truth, confirming what was already there. A voice was heard from heaven, “You are my son, dear.” It is an important starting point from which to contemplate baptism. Baptism confirms and establishes the love that is poured out on us even before we do anything. Baptism is precious and multifaceted, like a diamond that captures light and sets fire, and it is mysterious. Is it God’s response to a person’s commitment? Is it a symbol of God’s free flowing love? Does a person receive the Holy Spirit at baptism or is it something different?

All the blessings of God available to us in Christ are most wonderfully and beautifully and colorfully reflected in this ancient sacrament. The individual emphasis by the different parts of the Church each has a valuable contribution, which enriches the whole.

Yet there is a dark side to baptism as well. It is filled with the grace of God, and whatever is given freely (like the grace of God) can be easily misused. It has been (and remains) deeply divisive; In fact – unbearably – the conflicting beliefs surrounding baptism have historically led Christians to curse, insult, and even slaughter each other in the name of Christ.

Whenever I conduct a baptism I share the following illustration: I hold an envelope, representing the love of God, and I slip a card into the envelope, representing the person being baptized. Is. “We are already completely in love with God and surrounded by His love”, I say. “There is nothing we can do to make God love us more. But in baptism, this envelope of love is officially sealed.” I seal the envelope.

That’s what baptism does. It seals us in God forever. Looks like the adoption papers have finally arrived. We already belong to God, and we are now officially each other’s. Welcome to baptism in the church. The water of baptism purifies us, refreshes us, immerses us. Through baptism we are immersed in the saving waters of God’s grace, from which there is no return.

This is where it gets confused. Because we all know people who have been baptized who show no sign of or interest in belonging to Christ. Similarly, we can get to know faithful Christians who have not been baptized for whatever reason.

For example, William and Catherine Booth, the founders of the Salvation Army, decided to eliminate the practice of baptism. They recognized that baptism was so abused that it had lost its meaning, and had become a means of salvation in itself, and an instrument of power for the institutional church. It is also a response to integrity, which provides an important gift to the wider body of Christ.

How can we square this with what we have described about the beauty and power of baptism? How can such a deep and precious sacrament be so insignificant, so incomparable at the same time?

On the one hand we know that God already, already loves us. Yet we also know that baptism is not a magic spell. God graciously awaits our consent, no matter how long it takes. We cannot anticipate recognizing it in someone else, only trying to live our own baptismal vows as faithfully as we can.

The Holy Spirit cannot be seen, it goes wherever it pleases; Just like we can’t see the wind but we know where it is because we can see the treetops flying by. I believe that our baptism keeps us bound till the end. In my mind’s eye I see the water of baptism closing over our heads when we have taken our last breath.