Trinity Reformed Church
|909 North Landing Road; Rochester, NY 14625 --- (585) 381-5330|
‘B’ is for ‘Baptism’
And Jesus came and said to them, ``All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'' (Matthew 28:18-20)
As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, ``Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?'' He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. (Acts 8:36-38)
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
As you enter the sanctuary through the center doors of the narthex, you pass between two beautiful marble baptismal fonts. One is from the old First Reformed Church of Rochester, the other from the old Second Reformed Church, when we were on Scio Street. The former was the baptismal font used for baptizing several of our dear friends, including four generations in the Traas lineage: John Traas, Barb Stoops, Mark Chandler, and Owen Chandler.
Baptism is not something that happens every week in our church, or even every month. And so one might think that baptism is unimportant, to me, or to this congregation. Sure, I wish that we had more baptisms, that the opportunity to baptize more frequently came to me, and to us. But that it doesn't is of little importance for how highly I value baptism.
Christians disagree, of course, about what baptism means, how it should be done, who should receive it, and other such questions. Without going too far into those areas of dispute, let me say briefly what I hold to be central for baptism.
Baptism is given to us by Jesus. He tells us to do this. It is part of how we show obedience to Jesus; it shows we belong to Jesus.
Baptism marks the beginning of the Christian life. Christians are baptized. It is the way they mark their start as disciples, whether they later remember it or not. Someone might believe in Jesus without being baptized, but something is missing, something is being held back, the new start has not really begun as long as baptism is viewed as optional and inconsequential.
Baptism is not a private matter, but is an event of the whole community of faith. In baptism, the members of the congregation make promises -- to the baptized, and to God. Those promises are important. They are serious. But they are also a matter of joy. In a baptism, the members say to the baptized, in effect, ``We will support you; we will pray for you; we will help you as we follow Jesus together.''
Baptism, however, is mostly about what God does, not about what we do. In baptism, we are the passive recipients of God's grace, not the active agents of making grace happen. Sure, there are things that people do in a baptism. But the really important things that happen are the work of God.
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