Baptism


Then

Baptism is an outward and visible sign of the grace of God. It is a sacrament (i.e. a sacred ritual) of the church but it belongs to all people. Baptism, whether by immersion or the sprinkling of water, reminds us of the blessing Jesus received when he was baptized by John. Every Christian is part of that same blessing.

Jesus asked John to baptize him. John balked at first. But Jesus insisted. Cradling his cousin in his arms, John lowered Jesus under the river and held him there. When John pulled Jesus up from the water, the skies opened up. Scripture says they were parted, or torn apart. As Jesus breathed deeply, wiping the water from his face, the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove. A voice was heard, saying:
This is my beloved, my child, with whom I'm well-pleased.

Now

During the sacrament of Christian Baptism, the same voice whispers the same words. It is a three fold promise. The one baptized:
1) is loved by God
2) belongs to God
3) makes God happy.
Baptism does not alter God’s relationship to us; it changes our relationship to God... and our relationship to each other. The words and the water are a time-honored tradition by which we accept that God's devotion, love and joy are the same now as they will be forever.

During the liturgy, I sprinkle water while saying the words In the name of the Father, the son and the Holy Spirit, one God, Mother of us all. The ritual takes place in worship, in community, because it reminds us in a physical way what has been and will always be true spiritually. We do this in community, because God’s loyalty and love are all too easy to forget. When the voices of culture and conflict cloud out that whispered blessing, the congregation promises to step in as a reminder of God's unending and inescapable love. The sacrament of baptism is a communal act because we come to know the compassion of Christ best when we are bound together, many individuals into one body.

Further information

Much more can be said about the theological foundations of Baptism as lived out in the United Church of Christ. The Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches described emerging ecumenical trends toward mutual recognition in Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, adopted in Lima Peru in 1982.

Read a sample liturgy used at The Plymouth Church.