The La Sierra University Church is a Seventh-Day Adventist Congregation, Serving Western Riverside in Southern California.

Find us at lsuchurch.org 

4937 Sierra Vista Ave
Riverside 92505

Baptism (Days 3 & 4)

There’s another reason I like this book. In each chapter, the author points us to two different poles of faith and then attempts to connect them. One is the sacred truths embedded in the ordinary habits of an ordinary day. The other is a formal Christian practice, a part of traditional Christian faith. I suppose it’s a kind of “spiritual-and-religous” marriage, and that makes me happy.

In chapter 1, Tish pairs the daily experience of waking up in the morning with the Christian rite of baptism, the entry point to the communal life of faith for all Christians.

If you’re reading along, you’ll catch that Tish’s Anglican tradition baptizes infants, which means that adolescents or adults generally go through confirmation, a formal study of Bible, beliefs, and confession whose endpoint is full participation in church life.

Now I’m not saying baptism should be any less sacred. I am suggesting that sacred doesn’t have to be of the sort that feels interrupted when faced with raw humanity.

In contrast, and along with the rest of our cousins from the Radical Reformation, Adventists practice adult (or adolescent) baptism after a period of study and “preparation.” Infants, along with their parents, we dedicate to God.

Some of the distinctions between these two ways of practicing baptism are indeed substantive (though maybe not worth the literal wars that have been fought over them). The most often cited difference is the latter tradition’s emphasis on the informed, mature decision of the person requesting baptism.

But that is not to miss the affirmation of Grace that pervades all baptism! It’s easier, in a way, to see that an infant hasn’t merited her baptism in the least. For us immersion-types, then, it’s vital to remember that an adult’s baptism is no less a miracle of Grace. A teen or eighty-year-old hasn’t summoned up their own response to the Gospel any more than an infant. The Good News has gotten hold of them—likely when they least expected it. And all they’ve done is said, “Yes!”

It’s that Grace embodied in our baptism that Tish connects to our daily experience of waking.

We are marked from our first waking moment by an identity that is given to us by grace: an identity that is deeper and more real than any other identity we will don that day.

Martin Luther, she tells us, used to remind his church members that baptism is “the daily garment one is to wear all the time.” I gather she’s suggesting we wear this undergarment closer to our bodies than the identities we button up over the top.

I would’ve never thought to connect baptism with the daily bleary-eyed, bad breath, half-awake state of being. Even after participating in many baptisms, I still tend to associate baptism with that hushed tone, walk-softly, haloed version of the sacred—the kind where we simply ignore the lint that’s always floating in the water and pretend not to notice that I chose the robe without the weighted hem again.

Now I’m not saying baptism should be any less sacred. I am suggesting that sacred doesn’t have to be of the sort that feels interrupted when faced with raw humanity. Isn’t that really the whole point about Grace being good news? Baptism is sacred because it embodies God’s radical embrace of the very human, very ordinary, very lint-y people standing in the water.

So, as often as you wake, Tish invites, remember your baptism. My own baptism seems like a long time ago, relatively. I was thirteen. It was New Year’s Day—appropriately, I figured. My dad baptized me. And I don’t think of it very often, if I’m honest.

But I’m attracted to the idea of finding ways to remember it more often. Not so much remembering the white robe, the beliefs I’d studied, or the gold leafed Conflict of the Ages boxset I received as a gift. Instead, I’ll think of the awkward teen who didn’t really know where he was headed, and probably was thinking just as much about the people watching as the “meaning” of grace and salvation and sacraments. I’ll think of the twists and turns, stumbles and triumphs that have marked the twenty-four years since. I’ll think of the bleary-eyed, half-awake self that starts each day having done nothing of value or merit.

And I’ll remember it’s that ordinary, sacred version of me that God calls Beloved.

***

Feel free to comment below.

NOTE: The offer is still open to get books for free if you find a committed reading group of three or more. Email vnelson@lsuchurch.org. Also, Journey Sabbath School discusses Chapter 1 together tomorrow, about 10:30am, in the classroom across from the church office.

Making the Bed (Days 5 & 6)

Chapter 1: Waking (Day 2)