I. What is Baptism?
Baptism is not simply plain water. Instead, it is water used according to God’s command and connected with God’s Word.
What then is this word of God? Where our Lord Christ says in Matthew 28: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Think! What a great blessing clean “simply plain water” is! God could have chosen any way to act, but makes this promise to you with amazing, abundant water. How would your view of baptism change if the water were polluted and dirty or if there were no water available? How does God’s word with the water remind you of God’s work in the world?
Act! Touch the water in your baptismal font. Make the sign of the cross on yourself and others. If there is no water in the font, ask your pastor if you can add some. And then touch and enjoy its cleanness—God works in things like this!
II. What gifts or benefits does baptism grant?
It brings about forgiveness of sins, redeems from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe it, as the words and promises of God declare.
What are these words and promises of God? Where our Lord Christ says in Mark 16: “The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned.”
Think! Christians have unfortunately been apt to think of baptism as an insurance policy in case of accidental death. Why, from an ecological perspective especially, might God want to save you for your life now for the sake of this world?
Act! Think of saints you’ve known and celebrate what others have accomplished in their lives. Visit a cemetery or memorial garden and note how it continues to be a place of life. Use it as an occasion to remember that our actions today affect generations yet to come.
III. How can water do such great things?
Clearly the water does not do it, but the word of God, which is with and alongside the water, and faith, which trusts this word of God in the water. For without the word of God the water is plain water and not a baptism, but with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, a grace-filled water of life and a “bath of the new birth in the Holy Spirit,” as St. Paul says to Titus in chapter 3, “through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is sure.”
Think! Because we know of this special bath, we can also see God’s grace working through the “plain waters.” What are some of the “great things” plain water does in our world?
Act! We often overlook the value of water. Water Footprints, like the more common Carbon Footprints, are a new way to be attentive to our use and impact on water supplies. Give it a try at http://www.waterfootprint.org/ Visit http://www.elca.org/hunger/water for church resources.
IV. What then is the significance of such a baptism with water?
It signifies that the old person in us with all sins and evil desires is to be drowned and die through daily sorrow for sin and through repentance, and on the other hand that daily a new person is to come forth and rise up to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
Where is this written? St. Paul says in Romans 6, “We have been buried with Christ by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we to might walk in newness of life.”
Think! Again, not waiting for afterlife, here is a daily hope that you may live rightly in God’s world. What are five things you can do for the world today because you have the benefit and grace of life?
Act! Obviously God’s Word is strongest, but notice how this cleansing and purifying of baptism is done with water. Take this opportunity to see what harmful cleaning chemicals you could replace with something better.