Our baptism is always with us
One of the key themes of recent liturgical renewal is the insight that baptism is the root and foundation of the Christian life. In our baptism, we are united to Christ in his death and resurrection (Rom. 6). The Christian life is an ongoing experience of the dying of our old selves and rising of the new.
Several practices in Christian worship remind us of our baptism. The entire season of Lent is not first of all an extended meditation on the suffering and death of Jesus, but rather a preparation for our remembrance of our baptism. The declaration of pardon following the prayer of confession is, in many churches, read by the pastor at the baptismal font, a reminder of grace that is sealed to us in our baptism.
Several denominations have developed “remembering your baptism” services. In some of these services, worshipers are invited to physically touch the water of the baptismal font as a reminder of their baptism.
Each of these practices is designed to nurture a baptismal piety—a way of living the Christian life that actively recalls the significance of one’s own baptism. As John Calvin once argued, “The benefit which we derive from the sacraments ought by no means to be restricted to the time when they are administered to us. . . . The benefit of baptism lies open to the whole course of life, because the promise which is contained in it is perpetually in force.” More recently, Hughes Oliphant Old stated: “Baptism is a sign under which the whole of life is to be lived. Our baptism is always with us, constantly unfolding through the whole of life.”
Last year, when two of our grandchildren were baptized, I found a poem by Wendell Berry that spoke to me of the fullness of the baptismal promises and the baptismal life.
In the evening we come down to the shore
to drink our fill,
while it flows
through the regions of the dark.
It does not hold us,
except we keep returning to its rich waters
willing to die,
into the commonwealth of its joy.
• Wendell Berry
“Like the Water”
What wonderful reminders of the rich gift of baptism! — “In its abundance it survives our thirst” — “we keep returning to its rich waters thirsty” — “We enter, willing to die, into the commonwealth of its joy.”
May our baptism always be with us, constantly unfolding through the whole of our lives.