By Sam Gutierrez
On Christmas night, 1971, Alger Park Church caught on fire.
A single light bulb illuminating a stained glass window was left on, overheated, and ignited fabric covering a pew. The fire quickly spread and soon the windows collapsed, melting into fragments. The fire department responded quickly and began spraying thousands of gallons of water into the sanctuary in an attempt to douse the flames. A few firefighters entered the back of the building, finding their way into the pastor’s office. In an attempt to save a lifetime’s worth of collected resources, they tossed books and commentaries through the window onto a tarp on the ground. As the fire continued to blaze, more and more water poured into the sanctuary. There was so much water covering the floor that the baptismal font rose from its position near the pulpit and floated into the center aisle. From there, the font swirled around until it eventually descended down two flights of stairs, through a door and out into the parking lot.
I tell this story because it perfectly illustrates the fourth thing that I want to highlight about baptism: Mission.
Jesus gave us two sacraments: The Lord’s Supper and Baptism. The most basic definition is that a sacrament is a means of grace. This is why the sacraments are really about God and who God is. God is love and we are the recipients of God’s love. I invite you to touch your forehead and say, “I am baptized.” Now do it again and say, “God loves me.” The two are synonymous.
Yes, you are loved. But just like that baptismal font floating down the stairs and into the parking lot, there is an outflowing nature to the love you’ve received. The baptismal waters are not meant to stay in the sanctuary – they are meant to flow out into the surrounding neighborhood and community.
Simply put: You are loved. As a loved person, you are called to witness to others that they are loved too. You’ve been given promises not to simply bask in them, but to go out and tell others that God’s good promises are for them, too. This is the missional theme of baptism.
The waters of baptism are not static. They are flowing waters. They drench and move outwards. This is why at the end of every worship service, the congregation is sent as a “blessed” people. A baptized people. Blessed to be a blessing.
On Christmas night in 1971, the Baptismal font floated down the stairs into the parking lot. Did it really happen? I don’t know. Legend has it – Yes! But the spirit of the story is true - the Baptismal waters are flowing waters. God’s grace is always trying to escape the confines of the church walls, out through the doors in order to drench our community in endless waves of blessing.
By Sam Gutierrez
3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
In these recent blog posts we’ve been exploring the sacrament of Baptism. Last time we looked at adoption. Today, I want to highlight another major theme: Death and Resurrection.
A sacrament is a means of grace. This means that in and through the sacraments, we know and experience something important about who God is and what God is like. Just like water, God’s grace flows and saturates us. God is a generous gift giver to loves to pour out his goodness.
We are the recipients of this generous gift giving. As a result, with our hearts full of gratitude, we offer our lives back to God – mirroring his generous self-giving.
In previous blog posts, we talked about two gifts (graces) that God wants to give us: forgiveness of sins and adoption into his family. These are easier to explain and easier to accept. But baptism is also about dying and rising.
In an earlier blog, I talked about the mind-bending spiritual law: whatever goes down, must come up. In baptism, this spiritual dynamic is made visible. Jesus went down and came back up. We also must go down in order to come up. We have to humble ourselves in order to be exalted. We have to die in order to live. We must go down in order to go up. But, we can’t do this on our own. We need to get linked into Jesus’s life, death and resurrection. Only Jesus is good enough and strong enough to overcome sin and death. The gift that God wants to give us in baptism is HIS death. He also wants to give us the gift of HIS life. This is why Paul so clearly states that “for you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Col 3:3)
The theme of death and resurrection is where full immersion adult baptism really shines. The old life, the old self, the old identity, the old efforts and being “good enough” are buried (die) – and there is an embracing of a new life, new self, new identity, new purpose and new power.
For this week, I’d like to encourage you to touch your forehead and say the words, “I’m baptized.” Now touch your forehead and say, “I’ve died with Christ and I’m alive in Christ.” When we do this, we acknowledge that we are dying to our old way of sin and receiving the gift of new life in Christ.
By Sam Gutierrez
12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
In this recent series of blog posts, I’ve been exploring the sacrament of baptism. Last time we looked at forgiveness. Today, I want to highlight another major theme: adoption.
As I mentioned in my last post, a sacrament is a means of grace. In and through the sacrament of baptism we experience grace in an audio/visual way – we hear and see grace being poured out and splashing around. In baptism, we see grace saturate the forehead, run down cheeks, and soak clothing.
Baptism is a sign that points us to Jesus. The sacrament of baptism is like a giant arrow pointing us to the cross because water can’t save us – only the blood of Jesus is strong enough to cleanse our hearts of sin.
Baptism is also a seal. The promises symbolized in baptism don’t just float around, they land on folks. Here is another way to think about baptism as a seal – shortly after a baptism, the water dries up…but God forever sees us sopping wet. The promises soak us through and through – they get “stuck” on us – they get “sealed” upon our hearts. God wants us to know that his promises are for you and for me.
I’ve been ending my posts by having you touch your forehead, saying, "I’m baptized." The important thing here is the wording – it’s present tense. When you touch your forehead and say “I’m baptized,” you are also saying “I’m adopted into God’s family now and forever.” Not only does God’s grace displayed on the cross forgive us and cleanse our hearts, but God also graciously adopts us into his family. We have a home. We have a place of belonging.
Through adoption, we become brothers and sisters of Jesus. We are children of the King. Believe it or not, this makes us royalty (see Romans 8). We are God’s royal children, exercising power and authority over creation so that everybody and everything may flourish. This is the whole point of Jesus washing the disciple’s feet. It’s a lesson in the royal use of power – not to self-serve, but to serve others.
For this week, I’d like to encourage you to touch your forehead and say the words, “I’m baptized.” Next, touch your forehead and say, “I’m adopted.” When we do this, we acknowledge that we are being swept up into a wonderful story of belonging.
It’s important to remember that the sacraments are primarily about God. The pouring of water is a sign point us to God’s big heart where there is room enough for millions and millions of children. The pouring of water also seals God’s promises onto our hearts. We know without a doubt that we are the royal children of God – princes and princesses in the Kingdom, ruling and serving with loving kindness – just like God.