"Love! Do you know the meaning of the word?" 'How should I not?' said the Lady, 'I am in love...in Love Himself.'
~C.S. Lewis
The Great Divorce

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Baptism: As Illustrated by a Little Story

I was listening to a short portion of a Christian radio program on my way home this evening. It was narrated by a man who sounded vaguely like the narrator in Disney's Charlotte's Web. He relayed a story about a young 1st grader who, as 6 year old's are wont to do, had a bladder accident at his school desk. Fearful of being called out by the approaching teacher, and subsequently humiliated in front of his peers, the boy began to panic internally. A young girl sitting next to him must have noticed him fidgeting. It happened to be show and tell day and the girl had brought her goldfish to class. Knowing that within seconds the teacher would ask what was under the boy's chair, thus potentially ruining the rest of his elementary school experience, the girl dropped her fish bowl between them. The water mixed with the urine, and while the smell must have still been slightly pungent, it destroyed any evidence of the voided bladder. The girl confirmed later that the dropping of the fish bowl was not an accident. The boy had been saved by water. Water, which you might say, had been poured over his transgressions. I Peter 3 reminds us "Baptism now saves us". The epistle to Titus confirms this teaching when it speaks of the "washing of regeneration." Other passages could be offered in support of the Baptism's effects, but the point here is not an in depth theological discussion. Rather, to point out the obvious. Water cleans things. Whether it be dishes or bodies, that's what water does. The spiritual application is the same: something is being washed. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer leaves no doubt about that which is washed. Almighty and everlasting God, who of thy great mercy didst save Noah and his family in the Ark from perishing by water, and also didst safely lead the children of Israel thy people through the red Sea, figuring thereby thy holy baptism; and by the baptism of thy well beloved son Jesus Christ in the river Jordan didst sanctify water to the mystical washing away of sin: We beseech thee for thine infinite mercies, that thou wilt mercifully look upon this Child, wash him, and sanctify him with the holy Ghost, that he being delivered from thy Wrath, may be received into the Ark of Christ's Church, and being steadfast in faith, joyful through hope, and rooted in Charity may so pass the waves of this troublesome world, that finally he may come to the land of everlasting life, there to reign with thee world without end, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. How it is that physical elements communicate spiritual riches to us is a mystery all its own. Nevertheless, they do. May the story above remind us that the water which came from Christ's side is every bit as much a part of redemption as the blood. And may we take comfort in the Water which initiated us into the Kingdom of God and those other physical elements, Bread and Wine, which help us remain therein.