The ABCs of Baptism: Baptism in Daily Life
Learn how baptism empowers your spiritual journey
How can you transform your baptism from a distant memory into a significant aspect of your spiritual journey? Here are some meanings of baptism in an ABCs format, which will help you understand it better and embrace it daily.
Affirmation: One of the most beautiful affirmations in all scripture is uttered by God when Jesus is baptized, “You are my son, my beloved, with you, I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). We experience this same affirmation when as the baptized. No matter what happens in this world, you are the beloved of God.
Babies: From young to old, we baptize people of all ages. When we baptize a child, it is a sign of God’s saying yes to the child, even before they are aware of God. When we baptize people a bit older, they say “yes” to God. We can bring baptism into daily life by refreshing our commitments to follow the ways of Jesus.
Cross: Our practice is to make the sign of the cross on the forehead of the person getting baptized, symbolizing the union we have in Spirit with Jesus.
Dying: When adult believers are baptized, baptism represents dying to the old self and rising to the new self and life in Christ. This comes from Romans 6:4, “Therefore we were 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 also might walk in newness of life.
Some traditions that immerse people in water talk about it as a virtual drowning to the old ways and rising fresh to the new ways as they come out of the water.
Easter: The physical act of baptism is symbolic of death and resurrection. You die to your old self and values and rise into new life.
Forgiveness: We are not defined by sin, and God continually welcomes us back. A friend once told me that when he graduated, his mother said, “You always have a home to come home to.” That is one way to understand forgiveness. Remembering baptism in daily life is to embrace the forgiveness and place we always have in God’s mercy.
Gospel: Gospel means “good news.” At our baptism, we commit to proclaim and live the gospel. Our lives can be a testimony that Jesus brings good news of great joy to all people.
Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus when he was baptized. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can accomplish what God calls us to do.
• The Spirit will keep your hope alive when tempted to despair.
• The Spirit will convince you no matter what the world says, Love is greater than Hate. In every circumstance
• The Spirit will tell you to live toward peace when everyone else is rattling the sword.
Immersion: This is a deeply meaningful expression of baptism. A little over a year ago, a teenager from our church started taking his faith seriously and asked if I’d baptize him in the water at Mother’s beach. His sisters wanted in, too. It was a beautiful day of young people taking their faith so seriously that they let me dunk them in cold water in October. Maybe “I” should be inspirational.
Jordan: The river in Israel where John baptized Jesus. Christians continue to make pilgrimages there for baptism. At Bay Shore, when we baptize, we use water from the Jordan river.
Kingdom/Kin-dom: Baptism reminds us of our belonging to a spiritual realm, and kin-dom reminds us that we belong to one another as we are all the beloved of God.
Love: If you forget everything else Jesus taught, remember the two greatest commands from Matthew 22:34-40. Love God – love your neighbor. Oh, and everyone is your neighbor.
Mission: When we are baptized, we are given a mission and a purpose for our lives. Our mission is to bring healing to this broken world and healing to broken people, which is Jesus’ mission.
No: No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, baptism, and all that it means, they are available to you. The story of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-40 is an example that the Bible says baptism if for everyone. Don’t be shy. Get baptized! All you need is a heart that wants to follow the ways of Jesus.
Ordination: Baptism is ordination to ministry – that means we are all ministers. Ministry means servant, and we are all servants of Christ. You are called to live out your faith in daily life as much as me. Use your gifts and abilities to make a difference in your influence.
Public: Baptism is a public declaration of our loyalty, and we are baptized into a community of believers upon whom we rely on doing God’s work.
Questions: Never stop asking questions. Questions are how we grow in faith, and questioning is how we hold each other accountable. Never think you have all the answers, and don’t listen to anyone who says they do.
Repentance: John’s baptism was for the repentance of sin. Repentance means simply “turning around.” God allows U-turns. R is also for renunciation. We turn away from what is harmful to ourselves and others and promise to oppose evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.
Surrender: A baptism is an act of surrender. An old song says, “I go where you want me to go, dear Lord.”
Trinity: In baptism, we use the trinitarian formula as Jesus instructed in Matthew 28:18-20. Father, Son, Holy Spirit or Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. We are embraced into the fulness of God’s expression and modalities every moment of our lives. Click here for a link to what the United Church of Christ teaches about Baptism.
United: Baptism unites us with people around the globe who share this mission; one faith, one baptism, one Spirit. Your baptism makes this unity no need to get re-baptized. Once done for life, we can reaffirm our baptismal commitments and absorb their meanings more profoundly.
Vow: Baptism is a commitment as serious as marriage. That makes me think I should ask people: “Do you choose to follow Jesus with all that you are, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, and be faithful as long as you live?” Vows need some intentionality, or else they become meaningless words. Maybe when we talk about baptism, you think of The Godfather, when Michael Corleone makes baptismal vows at his nephew’s baptism, and during the vows, the camera cuts to people he is having assonated. Our intentionality with the vows is necessary lest they become empty words.
Washed: Baptism traditionally represents a symbolic washing away of our sins, like Oxy Clean and bleach for the soul.
Xylophone: because X is always Xylophone. A baptism causes us to ring the bells and celebrate God’s enduring love and activity in our lives.
You: Baptism personalizes a general notion that God loves everybody. In your baptism, you can remember God loves you. In you, God delights. God trusts you to make a positive impact and elevate those around you.
Zeal: The Holy Spirit is about energy and passion, which are the ingredients of zeal.
You can’t summarize baptism in a few words. Its meaning to us is ever unfolding. Consider splashing water on your forehead and renewing your baptismal vows to incorporate its many dimensions into our spiritual journeys.
Hear more about the meaning and significance of baptism in this sermon.
The World Council of Churches produced a wonderful document about the history, meaning and various baptism traditions.