Week One of Lent- God’s Revealed and Hidden
Baptism. Growing up, baptism was all about the forgiveness of sins, and maybe eternal fire insurance depending on the tradition where you grew up. This was always suspicious, but I could never put my finger on why.
Was God just planning on burning up the vast majority of human beings unless they got the right answer to the puzzle of religion? What sins had I committed at nine that deserved eternal damnation? To be fair I was a tough kid to raise, but I don’t think at nine I was hopeless.
The truth is that these questions came about because I had been given a particular lens to see the whole faith through, that is the lens of heaven vs. hell. Now, I do believe in heaven and hell, but there is a whole lot that should get put around every word of that sentence.
But I would not begin there, and neither does the Bible. We begin with God who, as have heard over the last few weeks, is beyond our categories of knowledge. We cannot comprehend of God because we are creatures and God is creator. But God has revealed God’s own self to us in history, to our ancestors in faith, through the Torah and the prophets, and finally through Jesus the Christ.
That revelation of God and God’s ultimate hiddenness are why the questions get so jumbled up. To get a better lens, we begin by looking at what Jesus revealed about God in the Gospels. God is loving, forgiving, merciful, and just. Those descriptions come right from the Hebrew Scriptures in the Old Testament, and they are vital to our knowledge about God.
God is revealed to have this character. To be born again (from above in John 3) is to be reborn as a child of God, by which we primarily mean to have God’s character infused in us, to have his Spirit.
So baptism is rebirth into a new family, a new identity, to take on a larger character and vocation. That vocation is the beginning of what we call eternal life, life in God.
Baptism is beautiful and joyful, and for many families it can devolve into just a celebration of childbirth, but it is meant to be a formal beginning to a way of life, a way of being in the world that promises to reveal the God of Jesus in our everyday lives.
We are the only Gospel most people will ever read. Our lives tell others about who God is and what God’s character is. We are washed and forgiven of the sin that comes with our life and legacy as human beings. But in being reborn, we are more than forgiven, we are sent.
We are sent into the world to tell the Good News, that life is available now, forgiveness, mercy, grace, and even justice are available now because we work to bring them in Christ’s name.
So we take baptism seriously. We prepare to become a part of something huge, and I invite you to prepare with us this Lent. Come to Catechumenate class, even if it is just for a refresher.
Sign up to be baptized, or to have a child baptized here at Christ Church of the Ascension, where God is known and revealed in our midst.
The Very Rev. Daniel Paul Richards
Christ Church of the Ascension
Paradise Valley, Arizona