I am convinced that the most hurtful act we can do to the Body is to baptize “because the dress fits,” “because the family is in town,” “because we have had all our kids done here,” or need to “get them done.” A totally disembodied service to satisfy the family. Baptism as another ‘service’ or commodity in our consumer driven culture continues to make Christianity a meaningless irrelevant institution—the name given to musty old buildings, and the elderly who argue whether “to gay or not to gay.”
As Anglicans, who boast a ‘non-confessional’ faith, we are even more dependent on our liturgy as the true reflection of our faith. Of all the traditions, we Anglicans can truly say (and almost nothing else): “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi.” So just what are we saying about what it means to be Christian when our foundational liturgical acts are turned into consumables? What does it mean to make renunciations, to ask a whole community to make vows, to ask candidates to make vows, to confess a change of life, to agree to death and rebirth in Christ, to “put on Christ”—to freely choose to follow Christ at whatever expense, to claim one’s inheritance as a prince or princess in the royal family of the Kingdom of God, and to prepare to receive the crown of eternal Glory?
Unless I am missing something, agreeing to be crucified is not something I try and squeeze into my busy schedule.
Are there exceptions? Of course there are.
Was Jesus hospitable? Were all welcome? Did he feast with outcasts and sinners? Yes. And, he demanded a change of life. Baptism is not about our biological family: it is freely choosing to join a new family.
To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:59-60).
Becoming Christ, which is our true end, is a matter of grace, but grace freely chosen. Love is always and forever, no matter what, always, always, free—or it is not love. Love is a choice. So when you say yes to Baptism, and to your life long conversion in the Eucharist, what are you choosing?
Check out Sunday’s Reading from Galatians:
For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery… For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. (Gal 5:1, 13-25)
Our transformation through Grace is also something we must choose to participate in. It is an embodied choice, made together, in, and with the Body, in the communion of saints. So what choice are we holding out to those who are coming for the dunk and dash baptism, or the free lunch? Are they choosing to struggle for the rest of their lives with crucifixion and life in the Spirit? Are we really living up to the faith we proclaim in our central sacramental liturgy?
Throughout the Gospel, Jesus always forgives, but I can’t find any case where he forgives a hypocrite. So out of our fear of declining numbers or appearing “non-inclusive,” let’s not fall prey to cheap grace; rather proclaim the glory upon glory we are choosing to become, together become the Church, a new family, on that incredible journey of conversion, and boldly hold out the claim of love crucified and risen. After all, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)