When I was 23 years old, I just received my first position in full time ministry as the youth and young adult director at First United Methodist Church in Bryan, Texas. I probably had not been in this position for more than a week when my father called me with a great concern. As he nervously worked around the reason why he called, I began to get worried that something was seriously wrong. Finally, dad mustered these words; “Son, I don’t think you have ever been baptized.” In a rush of relief I replied, “DAD, I THOUGHT SOMEONE DIED OR SOMETHING….what’s the big deal?” Then it hit me, I am in a pastoral position now and I am not even a part of the baptized—oh the horror…well more the embarrassment. You see, both of my younger brothers were baptized as children and so I always assumed I was as well until this moment. The next day I asked my senior pastor if we could make this baptizing thing happen quietly so that I don’t have to tell everyone. He rightly asked me to share my story and be baptized in front of the congregation—the pastor knew the significance of baptism, even if I did not.
I think if we are honest we believe all sorts of things about baptism. Some might go as far as to equate baptism to salvation and others would leave baptism in the category of special religious activities with nothing more powerful in the activity. Methodists (and most protestants) believe that baptism is a means of grace. Real power and real presence of Christ through the sign and symbol of water. Another way to think about it is; God coming in mercy, through something familiar and something we can touch, to help us. In baptism the work of Christ which was true long ago in the crucifixion and resurrection is now particularly true in the present for that individual. I think we sometimes forget the significance of our baptism and would benefit from returning to the truth found in this living water.
Here are five images of baptism that is found in the historic church and new testament theology:
- We are cleansed and healed of our sin and iniquities
- We are incorporated into the family of God
- We are launched into a life pursuing holiness and love of others
- We are shaped, by the Spirit, by the cross and the resurrection
- We are a new creation
No matter if you were baptized as an infant or as an adult, remember the work of Jesus is complete and it is up to us to affirm our baptism. We must live lives that are walking away from sin and participating with the family of God. If we are a new creation then we should be living as such and contributing to God’s Kingdom here on earth. This week, remember you baptism.
 Robin Jensen, Baptismal Imagery in Early Christianity