Baptism: An ancient ritual for today

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38-39 NIV

Few things we do today have ancient roots. The calendar we currently use began about the time of Jesus. It gave people a way to organize and measure time but I doubt anyone back then imagined we would have hand-held, personal devices that would help us divide the day, month or year into small increments of time so that we could manage scheduled appointments, events and vacations. The wheel and fire come to mind, but I don't want to go that far back because few of us have a fond caveman reminiscence. The wooly mammoth might break a smile for some.

Baptism had its beginnings as John called people of his time to repentance almost two-thousand years ago. We still practice this ancient ritual in our own church today. Some people actually look forward to either the personal experience or witnessing a baptism in the company of believers. I'd like to think we practice this ancient ritual because we get a glimmer of what God intended for us from the beginning. I never get tired of the experience. It never grows old for me.

New life springs forth out of the waters of spiritual birth like the physical birth of a child. We are all squeaky-clean as we emerge from the waters. As someone who's practiced baptizing others, I can tell you without a doubt, baptism is life changing for many. Parents, grandparents, godparents and extended families have gathered around an infant and professed their commitment to raise a child in the church. They take a vow that by their teaching and example they will be the connection to God, the church and the spiritual life. It was the ancient belief of the church that this vow anchored families to God's community of believers. Adults stood in lines dressed in white robes on the banks of the Jordan River much like people did two-thousand years ago to make their proclamation of Christian commitment and devotion to Christ official and public. They would join those who repented. They left their old life behind in the murky waters and came into the light hearing the voice of their heavenly Father claim them as his beloved child--a son or daughter of God.

Repentance is part of a healthy on-going Christian life much like cleaning out the attic, closet or garage. We tend to store items that can have deep meaning to us in dark corners for a lot of personal reasons. People, emotions and experiences are often tied to important items. Efficient lifestyles and organized closets cannot compare to cleaning out the entire space and making room for more of God in our lives. Maybe it's time for you to not just organize but cleanse the spiritual attic, closet or garage. Scripture tells us God is jealous toward us and doesn't want anything to stand in the way of a relationship with him. Is it time for a spiritual cleansing?

August 2 is a special day of worship set aside to consider baptism and its effects. You will have an opportunity to be baptized for the first time or to remember your baptism whether your parents made the vow or you made it yourself. The baptismal vow and experience have power. It can be deeply meaningful to take responsibility for it yourself. We will offer several ways to remember your baptism. You may want to go into the waters yourself and be completely immersed or have water sprinkled over you as a lasting symbol of the grace of God and your place in God's eternal family. Please let us know how you may want to participate. A class titled The Water's Fine is offered to help you learn more.

Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. Acts 2:41 NIV