Baptism

I am a simple person.  Raised in a bookish home, the daughter of a clergyman, in the long ago past with no Internet, no DVD’s, and limited television, I cherished reading from an early age.  Once a week, on Mondays, my father’s day off, we made a trip to the local library.  My sister and I carted our loot home, ten books (the limit), that we would cherish until the next Monday.  The worlds inside the books became our worlds, so that our growing up reflected many galaxies.

I carried that simplicity into my adulthood and the tumultuous ’sixties.  I carried the simplicity into marriage and motherhood and middle age, into what is often called our gentler years.  I continued reading, listening to the sound of the words, picturing the people and the places and the problems that threatened at every turn.

Along the way I rediscovered the Church, and began to understand the profound simplicity of her teaching, her practice, her faith.  With each year the simplicity has grown in its own deep complexity, and I continue to marvel at how this can be.  The creeds that tell of God’s love for Man. Holy Scripture which documents God’s love for Man.  The sacraments and the feasts and the seasons of the Church which all act out God’s love for Man.  Simple love.  Simple Incarnation.  Simple Resurrection.  Simplicity.

Yet the tapestry, the weave that lies within, inside and behind, these events and beliefs is so very rich, infinite in color and variety.  I know that in this life I shall never plumb the depths, never see all the shades of color, never touch all the marvel-ous textures of this faith.

I thought these things as I listened to today’s sermon on baptism.  It is Epiphanytide, a time in which we celebrate the manifestation of who Jesus was and is, meditating on the Gospel passage at the beginning of Mark where Christ is baptized in the Jordan by John. As Jesus rose from the water, “he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him: and there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  Our preacher said that Christ was baptized to become one of us; God was engrafted onto mankind.  Later, Christ tells his disciples to baptize in his name, that only those baptized will inherit the Kingdom of life.

These are strong words, and the early Church took them seriously.  Baptism became the first and most important rite for every believer.  It was soon understood that with this rite of “water and the Spirit,” being born anew, we become engrafted, become part of the Body of Christ, the Church.  A mystery.

I do not believe baptism is only a symbolic act, nor is it only a symbolic result.  The Body of Christ is more than a group, but a living breathing body.  Baptism is far more than membership in a club, and today I looked at my fellow worshipers in the pews, a part of my body of Christ.  I considered how we would soon partake of the Holy Eucharist, another sacrament making us one body.  We were engrafted onto each other and into, onto Christ, God the Son.  Because we were part of him, his resurrection would resurrect us as well, into the Kingdom of life.

Each of us journeys alone in this life, from birth to death.  We reach out to one another in friendship, in marriage, in family, in bonds of every shade of intimacy and distance, in love.  Yet we journey alone.  We are born alone and we die alone, for no one can make this final journey with us.  But the Body of Christ can.  The Body of Christ bridges the worlds, sanctifies our time on earth so that we may travel with the saints and the angels.  And not only at the time of our death and our passing into new life, but during our earthly journey as well.  Each year, day, hour, minute, even second of our time is colored, enriched, made holy by this Body of Christ, the Church.

So we journey with the Church, through the seasons and the feasts and the great acts of God on earth.  Through life into death and into life again.  With each day we are quite simply made whole, holy, and with each day we step deeper, further and farther, into the glory that God promises us.

My simplicity has become richly complex.

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