Thursday, 11 November 2010

Baptism in a secular age

It is commonly recognised that we live in a secular age – an age in which we modern human beings have departed from any sense of the divine in the world around us. It is not simply the rejection of God by militant atheists but the lack of spiritual connectedness in many people ensconced in institutional religion.

In this secular age we have an overblown sense of control over our lives, of our community, of nature, and of the world. This is reflected by both our faith in scientific progress to fix the massive ecological crises we face and the litigious nature of our society in which we seek to blame others for anything that happens.

In his book Requiem for a Species Clive Hamilton explores the denial of global warming. A supporter of the science surrounding global warming, Hamilton says, “If the great forces of Nature on our home planet turn against us, who will not feel abandoned and alone in the cosmos?”

As followers of Jesus the question is whether or not we would find ourselves answering ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to Hamilton’s question. What will happen if everything goes bad? Will we lose faith? Will we feel abandoned? Or will we find resolve and strength in our faith?

Jesus warned his disciples that there were trials and tribulations that lay ahead, both on a grand scale (wars and earthquakes) and on a very personal scale (when parents and brothers would betray them).

Yet in the face of the trials and tribulations that the disciples faced and the ones which we might face Jesus promise is to give us words and wisdom, to be present in our lives through the Spirit and to shape us for his will even in context of great persecution and hatred.

When we baptise children or adults in the context of this knowledge we are declaring a great hope in the promise of God, in the victory of Jesus over death and the promise of new life. As baptised people the purpose and meaning of our life is grounded not simply in the good or bad experiences we might have but in the promise of the unconditional love of God shown to us in and through Jesus.

Baptism sets us on a different life direction and puts us out of step with much the world around us would have us be and do. Helping one another to live out our baptism requires wisdom and patience, commitment and passion, love and humility all of which come to us as gifts of the Spirit.

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