Monday, February 24, 2014

Dusting Off Our Baptism

(Note: This post first appeared in my church's newsletter.)

The congregation I grew up in had a gorgeous baptismal font. The bowl was cobalt-blue glass and the stand was made of artistic, looping brushed steel. It was evocative and symbolic…and it spent most of the time stashed in a corner or in a storage closet. It was only ever brought out when it was needed for a baptism and then it was put somewhere out of the way.

And this always bugged me. For years it bothered me just because I thought it was beautiful and deserved to be seen, but as I studied theology and became a pastor, it bothered me because it tells the wrong story of baptism. 

Baptism is an act of grace and salvation from God. In baptism, our selfish, sinful self is drowned out of us and we are marked with the cross of Christ and bound to God’s promise of eternal life, a promise that we don’t stick in a baby album, but one we return to constantly. When Martin Luther wrote about baptism, he wrote about daily returning to the waters and being reminded of that promise. He wrote that whenever we despair or believe we are unloved, we should chase away evil by crying out, “But I am baptized!” 

Like that font, baptism is beautiful and evocative and special and it deserves to be seen every day; it is not something we consider “done” and then put away in the corner to gather dust. The promises of baptism are over, under, and around everything we do in our lives, but I think we are often taught that they, like the font, only come out at special times. Trying to bridge that gap, to make us daily aware of God’s presence in our lives, even in mundane, so-called “secular” tasks, is one of the driving thoughts behind my preaching, ministry, and theology.

So then a pastor friend of mine, with whom I often discuss such topics, sent me a link to a video with the question, “What about doing this with our churches?” The video was of a researcher named Shawn Achor who was describing a process for increasing happiness by developing five daily practices. By tweaking the wording of just two of the five, we saw a way to use it to increase attentiveness to God’s presence and action in the world around us. This became what we at Martin Luther Church are calling “Cross+Training.” 

During Lent, I am inviting people to join me in Cross+Training by daily journaling or sharing 3 gratitudes, sharing a place I saw God active in the world around me, praying for 5 minutes, doing a random act of kindness, and doing exercise or a physical activity for 30 minutes. To be clear, doing this won’t make God love me more or guarantee my salvation, which has been promised to me in baptism, but I hope it will make me and those who join me more aware of those baptismal promises that attend me daily. Hopefully it brings my baptism splashing out into the middle of my activities and less likely to be something gathering dust in the corner until I "need" it. 

“Lead me to the truth and I will follow you with my whole life.” -Mumford and Sons, “White Blank Page”

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