This past Sunday we wondered together about our identity; who am I, anyway?
What defines that identity?
And, bottom line, we discovered our identity rooted in our baptism into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Three great questions were submitted – two during Q&A, and one later via email.
As well, some of you fed back some interesting and helpful responses through comments and emails.
1. “I was reminded of the phrase, ‘The Spirit hovered over the waters’ from the story of Creation (Genesis 1:2). Is this an image of the Holy Spirit hovering over the re-creative waters of baptism?”
Thanks for raising this. You are definitely following along the lines of thinking and imagining presented by Tertullian, the ancient Church Father, and his baptismal teaching & praying. Recall how he understood the use of water for baptism to re-present God’s life-giving creative action as in the first creation, the flood, crossing the Red Sea and the Jordan, and more. Baptism is more than just a human testimony and action to a decision and commitment that I make. It is a powerful sign and seal of God’s saving work in me, us and Creation. Life is in him – alone. His power. His care. His grace. Alone.
The Spirit hovered over the chaos and void and “birthed” Creation order and beauty.
The Spirit hovered over Jesus as he descended into the baptismal waters of Jordan, empowering him for ministry.
And, yes, I believe the Holy Spirit is hovering, filling, empowering the action of baptism with sacred presence and grace so that we may grow and live within the holy embrace of God as followers and siblings of Jesus. It is sacred action, filled with Sacred Presence.
Can we rebel and resist? Of course!
Does the act of baptism effect the change within our hearts and lives? No. That is the mysterious, sacred work of God’s Spirit.
Is regeneration automatic? No. As all through Scripture, believers are called to dedication and response. In Old Testament Israel believers were called to “circumcise their hearts” (eg Deuteronomy 10:16) That is, accept and believe what the outer act on their bodies symbolized. So also we are called in Romans 6 to live out what our baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus symbolizes. Our whole life.
Which drives us to our knees, praying daily and desperately for the power and presence of the Holy Spirit to pour like living water into our minds and hearts every day, re-creating us more and more into image bearers of our Lord.
So much we could say on that – THANKS for raising that thought!
2. If one has not been baptized, but has made Public Profession of Faith, is that the same thing?
In short, “No!” they are not the same.
We profess Jesus publicly over and over. When we come to Christ we profess Jesus, and then are baptized in response. Then, over the years, we continue to re-profess faith in Jesus. But baptism marks our membership in the holy family of God. That seal is applied to us once, and only once. Either at the time of conversion – or when we are born into a home of believers.
So, if we have professed faith in Christ but not been baptized, the next step would be to explore becoming baptized. Why wait? Why NOT receive the sign of our adoption into the Royal family of heaven?
3. Having the baptismal font near the exit of the church building is a good reminder of our baptism as we head out into the world. Any suggestions, though, for M/T/W/Th/F/Sat on what to do to remind ourselves of our baptismal identity?
Glad you pointed to the need for such reminding. We’re only headed out the church building that one moment of the week. The challenges and temptations that seek to derail our baptismal living face us all week long.
Martin Luther is said to have made it a habit to look in the mirror each morning to say, “Brother Martin, remember your baptism.” We might do this – perhaps with the aid of a little sticky note on the bathroom mirror. What else could we do?
Let’s begin by admitting that for many of us this is totally new turf. Not sure about the rest of you, but I was NOT raised to think about my baptism. Once in a while someone would ask when I did my first profession of faith. But never about my baptism, and how that affected the way I viewed my identity. Which is a shame, really, coming from a faith tradition that says it values the covenant between God and believers, and that the key sign/seal of that covenant is baptism. Really, in my own little head baptism was something that new converts received, and the children of believers received. And then, once done, we move on, leaving baptism on a dusty shelf in the recesses of the mind, whether baptized as adults or children.
What a shame!
We have much to learn and recapture in grounding our identity in baptism – in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus poured onto and into us, washing us, and re-birthing us! Please re-read Romans 6:1-14, which calls us to a life of obedient discipleship. Notice the anchor point of that passage – baptism!
Were you baptized as an adult? Remember!! And prayerfully, submitting to the Spirit’s presence and power, recommit daily to live out that baptism identity your whole life. If you are not intentional about it, one day the memory of that baptism will fade, and with it, your sense of identity in Jesus.
Were you baptized as an infant? Remind yourself that you were baptized, at a time when you were helpless and unable to save yourself — just as in the helplessness of sin, Jesus rescued and saved you! Recommit daily to live out that baptism identity your whole life. If you are not intentional about it, one day the fact that you were baptized will fade from consciousness, and with it, your sense of identity in Jesus.
Besides dipping your hand in the baptism waters as you leave the sanctuary on those Sundays when the font is at the entrance to the world, what ELSE can you do?
1. Seriously consider the sticky note idea on your mirror. Or on the cover of your laptop. Do like Luther.
Here are some other suggestions which you submitted:
2. “I’m going to let the water run over my hand after I brush my teeth, and give thanks for Christ washing me.”
3. “I remind myself of my baptism identity in Jesus when I come daily to God in prayer, study his word, and help our community – these things remind me that I am a child of God.”
4. “Interestingly, a few days ago I decided that this summer I’m going to start out every day with changing the water in our bird bath instead of waiting until it’s scummy with algae! Well, there’s something like a baptismal bowl about a birdbath. I’m going to try to let this activity remind me of my baptism.”
5. “If we didn’t have a dish washer now I’d try to think of my baptism every time I washed dishes. It was in 1976 while my hands were in the soapy dishwater washing breakfast dishes that the Lord gave me a huge longing for his joy in my life and then he flooded me with it–a joy that lasted for months! It was a taste of heaven. Maybe I should go back to washing dishes by hand again :-)”
6. “For me it begins with grace said traditionally at meals – an opportunity to remember we receive all things from God, received with gratitude. I tend to begin my meal first with a sip of the juice or water by my plate. For me that is a remembrance that it all begins with the cleansing power of Jesus.”
Thanks to all who contributed to this conversation in faith.
And to all of you for tracking along with our faith journey at Kemptville Christian Reformed Church.
We will pick it back up again next Sunday, May 18. Hope you’ll be able to join in – either in our Sunday 10am worship service, or via the podcast that’ll be posted on pastorkensnotes.com
In the meantime, if you have some thoughts to add to this conversation, love to see your comments on this blog post.