By David Baumann
Reading from Romans, 6:1-11
1 What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7For whoever has died is freed from sin. 8But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Years ago a college student came to be baptized at my church. It was my custom at the baptism of adults to offer them a thorough pouring from a pitcher while they sat in a children’s pool, in a swim suit. When the time came, the assisting priest only dribbled a teeny few drops from the pitcher. I exclaimed, “Oh, soak him!” and turned his wrist so that the water gushed out. Everyone laughed, but I thought that the situation cried out for my interference. A few drops will do it, but baptism is really about being soaked through and through.
Even old and very popular fairy tales know the deep truth: “Sleeping Beauty,” “Cinderella,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Frog Prince,” all tell the same story. The desire in the deep wells of the human heart is not for a “makeover,” a drop of improvement here and there, but for a resurrection, a gushing fount of new life. What Paul describes in today’s lesson is not a good career move or a streak of self-improvement. Paul is talking about unimaginable resurrected life, which can take place only after a death has come first. And Paul’s description is overwhelmingly euphoric.
Like all the sacraments, however, Baptism is not magic; it is a gift that requires our acceptance of it, our participation in it, our daily commitment to growing in it. My small daughters dress their dolls, which are really lifeless hunks of plastic; but when I dress my daughters, they learn about color, design, personal expression, responsibility, and love. In baptism, both we and God are all in: We die to sin, we put on Christ’s life, and we participate in the eternal life of God in the presence of our Father.
David Baumann has been an Episcopal priest for 45 years, 39 of them in the Diocese of Los Angeles. He now serves as part-time priest in southern Illinois. He has published devotions, articles, and essays, as well as science fiction novels and short stories.
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