Monday, May 13, 2013

Baptism: The Moment That Lasts a Lifetime

Baptism: The Moment That Lasts a Lifetime
Ruth Meyers

During the Easter season at Church Divinity School of the Pacific, where I teach, Eucharist begins with singing the Easter Troparion: “Christ is risen from dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in the tombs bestowing life.” Just before we sing, the presider, standing at the baptismal font, offers a brief prayer over the water. Then, during the troparion, which is sung over and over and over, the presider walks through the chapel sprinkling the assembly. Emphasizing Christ’s trampling down death, members of the assembly stomp their feet in time with the music.

Remember your baptism! Remember that we have been buried with Christ, so that we might walk in newness of life (Romans 6).

The identity established in baptism shapes a Christian’s entire life. Whether baptized as an adult, making the promises of baptism for oneself, or committed to the Christian life as an infant, on the strength of promises made by parents and godparents, we cannot in that moment comprehend all that it is to believe in the God of Jesus Christ and to live as Christ’s Body in the world. The moment of baptism lasts a lifetime. We spend our lives learning what it means to believe in Christ, risen from the dead. We spend our lives learning how to behave as Christians.

In its recently revised materials for baptism, the Church of England says, “One test of the liturgical celebration of baptism is whether, over time, it enables the whole Church to see itself as a baptized community, called to partake in the life of God and to share in the mission of God to the world.” Our celebration of baptism and our remembrance of baptism must be strong, shaping Christians who are able to walk in newness of life.

Here’s a question to stir the waters: How can baptism shape a faithful Christian community, enabling Christians to grow up into the full stature of Christ?

Ruth Meyers will be one of the featured presenters at Stirring the Waters: Reclaiming the Missional, Subversive Character of Baptism, the APLM-NAAC conference this June 27-29 in Chicago.  Dr. Meyers is the Hodges-Haynes Professor of Liturgics and Dean of Academic Affairs at Church Divinity School of the Pacific, and author of Continuing the Reformation: Re-Visioning Baptism in the Episcopal Church. She is currently working on a book about liturgy and mission. She is the chair of the Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music and a member of the Council of Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission.

To register online for Stirring the Waters:

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  1. The entrance rite you describe would certainly shape a congregations leaning and leaning into baptismal moment that lasts a lifetime.

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