Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Baptism with Integrity

How do we recover a sense of the central importance of baptism?

Some churches have sought to do so by rejecting infant baptism in favour of adult baptism, yet whilst those adult baptisms I have done have been particularly meaningful, there is something to be said about the wonder of grace expressed in baptising an infant.

The words of the baptismal prayer from the French Reformed Church capture this wonderfully "for you, little child, event though you do not know it."

However, again and again the significance of the event appears lost on people and whilst grace may be proclaimed in that moment the ongoing witness of a life lived in Christ appears so often either obscured from view or simply neglected.

In his book Atheist Delusions David Bentley Hart provides a snapshot of anancient liturgy and the commitment involved in entering the waters of baptism (p111-113).

He describes how, in the ancient world, baptism and the inculsion in the Christian community of faith invovled a clear turning away from other gods, from the realm of darkness and the devil.

It meant turning towards Christ and living following his way.

Whilst I was baptised as an infant, Hart's words nonetheless reminded me of my own conviction that my baptism, is core to my life. Living as a person baptised into Christ's body is the determinative marker of my life.

This means that I view baptism as one of the most, if not the single most, significant events of my life. Through baptism my life has been drawn into Chirst's and the Spirit shapes my life now as a witness to God's love and grace.

Baptism, which signifies for me my life live in Christ and as a disciple of Jesus, shapes me and informs me in my vocation, my marriage, my role as a father and as a friend. The list could go on.

My memory of the event has little importance to me but my living of it is central to who I am, for now I am not simply my own, set adrfit in a universe alone, but I am Christ's.

I find great empathy for Hart's reminder of the central importance of baptism and all that it meant so long ago.

Similarly, I find a great connection to Ben Myer's parable about baptism, and ask are we clergy too ready to give a wink and a nod to those who come askign to have their child christened?

How do we proclaim that uncondiotional grace which has a necessary response without turning grace and faith into judgement and works?

Maybe it is in witness? So I give thanks for parents and for a church who in faith and in trust gave to me this gift of baptism and to the God who has been faithful to me in nurturing and guiding me.

Peter Lockhart

No comments:

Post a Comment