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Baptized into Death

By Michael Smith

A 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.


The Holy One of Israel is a God of covenants. That is, God enters into relationships with groups of people as the LORD did with the chosen people through Abraham. The physical sign of that covenant is the circumcision of males, a practice that continues to this day among Jewish people (Genesis 17). In the plan of God to extend the covenant beyond the children of Israel with an invitation to people of all nations, races, languages, and tribes, a covenant was established through Jesus Christ. The physical sign of this covenant is the water rite of baptism. Today’s epistle reading teaches an important aspect of that relational mystery we have entered through the waters of baptism.

Having been immersed into the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, we are initiated into a continual dying and rising, giving thanks that we have been freed from the slavery of disobedience and restored to the freedom of obedience as sons and daughters of God. In Jesus Christ, God has rescued us from ourselves and from evil. As participants in God’s covenant, we rejoice that death no longer has dominion over us!

A simple yet powerful ceremony at some baptisms is the giving of a candle lighted from the Paschal or Easter Candle to the newly baptized. This action symbolizes to me the sharing of the light of the risen Christ with the new member who has been incorporated into his body through baptism. Jesus, the light of the world, makes us little lights of the world. Sometimes, however, the light we carry is diminished for a variety of reasons. The season of Lent, as we prepare to renew the Baptismal Covenant at Easter, is a good time to ask what we need for our flame to be rekindled. To what do we need to die in order to rise again?

Michael G. Smith served as bishop of North Dakota for fifteen years and is currently the Assistant Bishop of Dallas. He works with the Navajoland Iona Collaborative and is a Benedictine Oblate and an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

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