This week, we talked a little bit about baptism, and we had a chance to touch on some reasons why Anabaptists rejected infant baptism, how baptism functioned as a means of cultural imposition (and even domination), Dorothy Day and the idea of the mystical body, and our being as new creation walking in newness of life.
Baptism is of course a big topic, and there are many ways that we can engage with it; but part of what we focused on is that baptism is our inauguration into a reality larger than ourselves. For Anabaptists this was important because this reality was God’s kingdom and not “the world,” but as they saw it, infant baptism functioned to inaugurate people into “the world,” the structures of violence, exploitation, coercion, and injustice around them, rather than the political space of God’s kingdom which is meant to be a witness to an alternate space to the status quo.
Baptism is one’s commitment to take up one’s cross, to accept the death of Christ and be raised to newness of life. This has personal, social, and public effects (but not individualistic… in fact quite the opposite). This involves not only a “personal relationship” (as is en vogue in popular evangelical culture) but Jesus’s vision is something that must be lived out with others in community. There is at least a double movement in taking on baptism, both inward (community) and outward (world). Baptism is a movement drawing us together into community to live out Jesus’s communal vision as a people who covenant to each other. Yet, at the same time, our inner community life, should engage and go forth as the community of peace and in God’s ministry of reconciliation.
In baptism, we are buried, immersed in love, and become a people of love, so we are compelled to love our neighbors and our enemies not because it is effective (and not that love is not “effective”), not because love will stop every war and injustice, but because love simply is what we have become in our baptism. That is, Jesus embodies love, and we unite with Jesus so that love becomes our very flesh.
We don’t love because it is effective; we love because it is who we are and who we are becoming in Christ.
Finally, Dorothy Day and her concern for the mystical body of Christ led our thinking about our engagement and responsibility to the world—how our connection, our unification with Jesus and his body brings us into responsibility with others, not simply because they are worth dignity, but because they are us.
There was also a lot of great “talk back” after the sermon, some of which included some discussion about our need to learn the definition of “love” from Jesus in encounter and participation in Jesus’s life and work, how baptism can be like jumping into the chaos and seeming destruction of the waters in order to come out in newness of life, and how the love that baptism should involve self-love, loving our own bodies, loving our body the church, in order to love the whole of the potential mystical body of Christ.
Give the sermon a listen, and hear the development of these thoughts and more; and then continue the conversation! Here are a couple suggestions for questions.
- How does your baptism influence the way you interact with the world? How does it define you? Do you think about your relation to Jesus in baptism, your relation to community, your relation to the world?
- How does engaging with the life of Christ teach you what love is? In what ways do we learn what real love is?
For convenience sake, there is also a podcast available. You can find that here.