St. Augustine of Hippo


Episcopal Church

 


“Committed to Christ


January 13, 2019


The Baptism of our Lord



The Reverend Nathanael Saint-Pierre



What brought us to seek for Baptism? What was the expectation of our parents if the decision was taken by them? Did we expect to become perfect or that Baptism would wash away our sins and make us worthy? Are we baptized to get something or to give ourselves to God?


People were rushing to John to get baptized, many thinking that John was the Messiah. Since he was preaching of repentance, many wanted to be baptized so that they could spare their soul. Then came Jesus, God made man without sin, to receive baptism.


If Jesus was without sin and did not need to repent, then why did he get baptized?


Baptism is not John the Baptist’s invention. Several rites of washing and cleansing were already present in several religious traditions. The reasons we get baptized vary from believer to believer. Some get baptized because their parents decide to initiate them into the church. The parents were themselves initiated and want to pass on that tradition. Others, because someone like John, a pastor, a preacher, suggested that baptism would open a door for them toward forgiveness of sins and salvation. Since society nowadays is seeking for quick fixes and speedy solutions, many believe that a little bit of water put on the forehead of an individual is enough to make her/him holy. Some would even go to the extent of selecting the one who will pour the water on their forehead or on the forehead of their progeny, because they believe that this priest, this bishop, or this pastor is invested with special power and can confer a specific/special grace.


Baptism is a sacrament, an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace. Who administers it doesn’t matter. The form it takes, the place it happens, the age of the receiver, are of a secondary importance. It might be the tradition of some churches to pour a little bit of water from the Jordan River into the water of baptism. The presence of such water or the lack thereof doesn’t validate or invalidate the sacrament.  When we need to meet all those requirements for baptism to be valid, it might be a commitment to a priest, to a form, to a place, to a practice or tradition, but not a commitment to Christ.


Christian baptism is a commitment to Christ. A commitment to follow a way, to live a lifestyle, knowing that, like Christ, we will fall and even fail, but we will keep walking toward the cross, because only through the cross, can we effectively be saved. Baptism is a commitment to follow the footsteps of Christ. Sometimes, this commitment is taken on our behalf by parents who engage themselves to raise us, informing us of our responsibilities. Sometimes, we are old enough to feel the attraction of the cross and embrace that way on our own. But no matter the situation, baptism is not an instant recipe that changes all our imperfections. The holiness that is on us is because, through the water of baptism, we are set aside as Christ’s own forever, marked with the sign of the cross.


Jesus being baptized is Jesus accepting to commit his life for the purpose God intended. He did not need to become holier, cleaner, more perfect than he was. But the moment of his baptism revealed him to those who were still questioning his credentials, his legitimacy, and his messianism. Jesus being baptized is a Jesus embracing God’s plan and willing to lose for God to win. Sometimes, our ego is so big: we pray, we attend church, we fast, we say thousands of Hail Marys , have dozens of rosaries, we burn incense, we recite the creeds, but we forget that in baptism, our personal sins were washed away so that we can learn to wash away the sins of those who sin against us.


Baptism is the moment we entrust ourselves to Jesus and accept/commit to become an instrument he can use for HIS purpose. Baptism is that place where we acknowledge we are all convicted, meaning guilty and in need of Jesus’ advocacy, because “If one is not convicted how can one be converted?”, redeemed and restored? And Jesus is the only one who can advocate for us and lead us to the place where change can happen


A few months after I started my ministry here, I had the opportunity to baptize Skyy and Samaya. They were my first twin baptism. I felt honored to be given the opportunity. Some families would have preferred to call upon a more familiar priest. Being a sinner myself, I cannot pretend that I conferred on them any special power, any special grace, besides the grace Christ can provide. All I knew then was that through my falling and standing up, I could be a model of perseverance for them and inspire them to learn to stand up when they fall, instead of staying on the ground to blame someone or something else.


Today, when I see Taylor preaching, Khylee, Skyy, and Samaya serving, offering themselves for God’s service, I feel that my hope, that this church is not dead yet, is not misplaced.


All those who were baptized by John did not become Christians, but through Jesus, God was able to reveal the love the world needed. The same God, who manifested Godself through a dove two thousand years ago in Jesus, is manifesting his love in our times, using our girls. God is letting us know that his mission among us is not over. God will always provide when we are desperate and lacking manpower. Some days I may end up by myself at the altar. But God will always be in the midst of us when we gather in his name. We serve not because of the visibility we get, we are at the altar not to put up a show, we are here to accomplish the ministry God invited us to commit to. May we celebrate the ministry of our new acolytes and be inspired by their innocence to embrace, as they are, our commitment to Christ. We don’t do what we do to please anyone, all that we do must be for the glory of God.