Preparation is a requirement for baptism. Not in the sense that baptism is a test you must prepare and study for to pass. After all, we are talking about God’s adoption, God choosing us, God’s love, which is absolutely free. Rather, in preparing for this incredible moment of grace that is beyond our understanding, we can get ready for what, we hope, happens in response to that adoption, that choosing, that love and grace – the baptized life, discipleship, being Christian.
For this particular preparation, I asked the parents of our baptismal candidates to read the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams’ book, “Being Christian: Baptism, Bible, Eucharist, Prayer.” This very short, very excellent book reflects on the essential elements of the Christian life.
In speaking with these amazing parents about the book (which I was so glad to hear they enjoyed) one of the pieces that came up in each conversation was from the chapter on baptism. I wanted to share a little piece of it here for our benefit.
To be able to say, ‘I’m baptized’ is not to claim an extra dignity, let alone a sort of privilege that keeps you separate from and superior to the rest of the human race, but to claim a new level of solidarity with other people. It is to accept that to be a Christian is to be affected – you might even say contaminated – by the mess of humanity. This is very paradoxical. Baptism is a ceremony in which we are washed, cleansed and re-created. It is also a ceremony in which we are pushed into the middle of a human situation that may hurt us, and that will not leave us untouched or unsullied. And the gathering of baptized people is therefore not a convocation of those who are privileged, elite and separate, but of those who have accepted what it means to be in the heart of a needy, contaminated, messy world.
For all of us who are baptized, this is an important point to remember. We are not baptized to be saved from this world so that nothing bad will happen to us. Instead, we are baptized to be saved for this world – to serve, to love, to be with, to be a part of the new thing God is doing in the hurt, in the messiness, in the brokenness.
I pray that we as individuals and as a church may be formed more and more, through the waters of baptism, into this high calling, the response to God’s love and grace so freely given.
Thanks be to God!