Deep in the Waters of Life
We practice two sacraments at Christ Church: Portland - baptism & communion. But in many ways, so much more of our life is sacramental, including how we “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28) through ways we relate to one another, make commitments in our lives and practice empathy and confession.
What is a “sacrament?” It’s a big idea rooted in 2000+ years of Christian storytelling & conviction. A “sacrament” is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual, or divine, grace. When we share bread and wine at communion, we celebrate and remember the Story of Christ through ordinary elements, but there’s a deeper mystery there, too, where Christians often believe that Christ is truly “present” with them in the food for the journey. Baptism too, ordinary waters are transformed into an extraordinary moment where we might remember the story, myth & metaphor of liberation from Egypt & Pharaoh, death and burial and resurrection with Christ, and the promise the Spirit sustaining us along the way as we grow in knowledge and experience of faith… and mystery.
In some ways, it's about a new exodus.
We practice baptism as one of the core ways of following in the footsteps of Jesus. When we are baptized we recognize a few major realities: that we submit to a greater mystery in becoming, belong, and being. We can’t baptize ourselves - we submit to it. Some call it a sort of “adoption” process. And in the waters of baptism, administered by another, in God’s mystery we find ourselves in the Divine story and promise that life triumphs over death, love wins and we all have a part to play in the unfolding of that beautiful, inclusive reality.
Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan by John the Baptizer - you can read about in four of the ancient Biblical accounts of the story of Jesus (Matthew 3, Mark 1, Luke 3, John 1). Jesus baptism marks the beginning of his ministry to “set the captives free” and share an embodied message of love, light, joy and justice for the common good.
In Jesus’ day baptism was possibly an adaptation of ancient Jewish washing ceremonies. Over 2000+ years of the faith, Christians practice baptism in a myriad of ways - some “sprinkle” water over the baptized head, some are fully immersed, or dunked. Some are baptized as believing adults and children, some are brought as infants by loving parents or guardians to be baptized, raised in a community of faith where they might “grow into their baptism.”
Children & Adults
Who can be baptized?
The common marks of baptism are:
- Someone else in the model of John the Baptist, doing it in the name of the Father (Creator), Son (Christ), & Holy Spirit,
- And a community of care, nurture and solidarity to journey alongside.
When Christians - adult, children and infants - are baptized, the community plays an integral part in the journey together. There are commitments in which members of the congregation will be asked to participate at the appropriate moment.
A note on “believer” baptism:
We like how the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) succinctly puts it, “Just as the baptism represents the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, it symbolizes the death and burial of the old self of the repentant believer, and the joyous birth of a brand new being in Christ. Those who founded the Disciples movement taught baptism by immersion as the accepted form.
Baptism is a public act by which the church proclaims God’s grace, as revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, through the use of a visible sign of God’s gracious initiative and the human individual’s response in faith. With other Christians we affirm that baptism is at once a divine gift and a human response…
The meaning of baptism is grounded in God’s redemptive action in Christ, it incorporates the believer in the community in the body of Christ, and it anticipates life in the coming age when the powers of the old world will be overcome, and the purposes of God will triumph.”
Those that come to the waters of baptism as a child or an adult, just like infants brought to baptism, will continue to “grow into their batismal garments.” We never have a perfect faith - that’s not what faith is about anyways. We trust in God’s promises for love, life and the common good, and we grow into our understanding and experience of them in our own respective journeys through devotion and doubt.
A note on “infant” baptism:
We also baptize infants based on a Biblically and theologically rooted view that the sacraments, both baptism and the Communion, are means of grace whereby the mystery and drama of the Gospel are proclaimed. One such Biblical model that includes infant baptism is found in the incredible story of a Philippian jailer the Apostle Paul and Silas (read: Acts 16).
It’s in this form of baptism that we recognize that a decision has been made by God from the foundation of the world that a way be provided for everyone to be included in the experience of the belief, belonging, and community. Baptism symbolizes the initiation into the believing community wherein the infant will grow up and one day have the opportunity to “confirm” their faith.
In infant baptism we recognize a “prevenient” grace at work (that’s how the great reformer John Wesley described it). Divine grace is at work in our lives in a nurturing, loving and inclusive way even if we are not away of it. Baptism points to the loving embrace of Divine care, nurture and solidarity. Like a mother or father’s embrace and dedication, so too is the Divine presence in the life of a precious child.
In the end it's also about following in the Way
In the end, Baptism is always tied to discipleship, or footsteps of faith for the journey. Which brings it back to the story of a new kind of Exodus. Those that are baptized are looking to follow or invite their children to follow in the Way of the One who came to love, liberate and rescue us from broken patterns, systems and rhythms.
On the day of Pentecost, which is remembered as the “birthday” of this movement and way of church, the Holy Spirit is experienced and many make decisions to live out this new way of love and resistance of the powers of sin, death and destruction.
The Apostle Paul reminds us of this radically audacious reality we find in baptism, when he shares with the early community in Galatia:
“… for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:26-29, NRSV)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a church leader of the resistance during World War II captures our imagination for what it looks like to live as disciples ("learners, followers") of Jesus in particular times embracing knowing and unknowing as we practice the costly way of love and the common good:
Who can or should be baptized?
Historically Christians have affirmed the baptism of adults and children able to profess faith in the Triune God as well as affirmed parents and guardians bringing their infant children to be baptized with the expectation of a later confirmation of faith.
We practice both “believer” and “infant” baptism at Christ Church. As a reconciling people, unifying people around the common call of Jesus we affirm both kinds of baptism because of the authenticity of both theologies of baptism, and the hope for unity in the church despite 2000+ years of debate and division on such matters.
Baptism is about the mystery of belonging - we experience this in similar yet quite distinct ways when we confess our own personal faith or bring our loved ones to the waters of baptism. We grow into our baptismal garments (even if we’re fully physically grown!) along the way.
Do I need to be baptized more than once?
Baptism is a very personal experience and yet a very communal reality. One baptism is enough - because the Divine mystery of knowing in the faith goes through many spiral-like stages over one’s own journey. We remember our baptism - wether infant, children or adults - through stories, photos and lived experience, but we remember it in a mystical way, too - trusting God’s loving presence and work along the way. In short, we trust the sacramentality, or mystery of the whole beautiful thing.
In order to join in and be part of Christ Church we do not require baptism or a new baptism into our church family. If one is not baptized, we will invite you to be baptized in our Newcomers class.
In some cases, due to abuse or other broken, destructive experiences in church, family and/or faith, one may wish to be baptized again - and this is always taken with utmost seriousness which can lead to another baptism.
When do baptisms occur at Christ Church?
Currently we do them quarterly - tied to a special Sunday on the church calendar.
Traditionally those receiving baptism went through two years of intense training, study and prayer, to be baptized (naked!) at the Great Easter Vigil in the dawn hours of Easter. Whereas some of us might find that thrilling, we do not require that!
The exact dates change every year, so stay tuned to news + announcements. You or your children may be baptized:
- January - Baptism of Jesus Sunday: we remember the story of Jesus’ own baptism, taking the waters of the Jordan in solidarity with the whole human family, beginning his lifework of love, change, and healing
- March/April - Easter Sunday: we remember the promise of resurrection - that death does not have the final word - in Christ and the mystery of that liberating power.
- May - Pentecost Sunday: we remember the outpouring of the Holy Spirit over all God’s diversity, often recognized as the “birthday” of the church.
- November - All Saints Sunday: we remember the great cloud of witness before, here and to come, that we get to journey with in presence and memory as we live out our life together for God’s dream of the kin(g)dom of God.
If you would like to be baptized or bring your child to be baptized, schedule an appointment with the Pastor(s)!