“What kind of world do you want?” goes the chorus of Five for Fighting’s “World.” Every day is an act of world-making. As I write this post on a Sunday night, a world is being built that involves everything from peace in the Middle East to the 2014 Super Bowl. Churches, mosques, synagogues and other institutions have gathered worshippers to weekend services of world-making. Advertisers have spent millions on promoted tweets and 30 second TV spots to convince you that the world would be better, faster and sexier if you only purchased their products.
Today, I baptized my nephew. Holding together the worlds of uncle, Christian and minister, Christ let me help build a world. Lest it appear that I am overplaying my hand, let’s consider my favorite of the Belgic Confession. Article 34, “The Sacrament of Baptism,” creatively employs the crossing of the Red Sea as a central baptismal image. Baptism is a world-building activity, sacred in its participation in God’s good and creative world-building. It’s a world freer from “the tyranny of Pharaoh” and more like “the spiritual land of Caanan.” Baptism creates a better world, characterized not by guilt, shame and fear but by God’s parental goodness. Oh, that baptism would free my nephew from experiencing those awful things!
But baptism isn’t only about my nephew. He doesn’t walk through the Red Sea alone. He enters it with a freedom community, a family of grace and truth. While appropriate focus and celebration is aimed toward the child, I would say that baptism is a community event and a team sport. The community enters into baptism with their word, a promise, and follows up with actions- discipleship and love. God’s baptism promise “is profitable not only when we receive it but throughout our entire lives,” so also the promise of the baptismal community is profitable always. In making promises, we are reminded of God’s promise and therefore our core identity. We are free in Christ.
And so the Church is a community of freedom, identified by liberation and invited to participate in God’s liberation work. 2 Corinthians 5 notes that as we are reconciled to God, so we become ambassadors of reconciliation. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of people were baptized today. With every drop of water and every spoken promise, the Church has mightily answered Five for Fighting’s “What kind of world do you want?” with “A better, freer and more lovely world than has ever been seen or imagined.” Amen?