What community do you belong to?
As we gather to celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus, as we are reminded that Baptism is a Christian rite of passage, I want us to reflect upon what community you belong you.
Baptism, as a rite of Christian initiation, is all about community … it’s about our need to belong.
Important to me is the notion that Baptism is about committing oneself (or by someone on your behalf in our infancy) to a particular Christian community … it’s about belonging to a group, a creed, a way of being in and thinking about the world.
Belonging, I believe, is our deepest need as humans. It is what differentiates us from many other animal species who we share this island home with.
We need to know where we belong, where we feel accepted, included, wanted … a place where we fit in, a place where we know we are not alone.
And we humans go to great lengths to ensure that we belong. We download mobile apps that promise to connect us with other folks, romantically, sexually, or as friends; we seek out like minded folks on drop-in sports teams or through art lessons; we join gyms in the hopes of chatting up the person on the treadmill next to us.
We join communities of faith who, at their core and in the best sense, bring us out of isolation and into community.
And our faith community — the Christian community — has set today aside to commemorate the Baptism of Jesus by John.
“In our day and age,” writes one commentator, “and for many centuries, we have made words that were, in the time of Jesus, ordinary daily language into technical religious terms. This tends to separate religion from ordinary life. One example is the word ‘baptism.’ In Jesus’ day the Greek word simply meant ‘wash.’ In our modern English bibles we read: ‘They came to John to be baptized.’ The original Greek simply says: ‘They came to John to be washed.’”1
What a beautiful act of belonging — to be washed by another person. Intimate. Personal. Sensual. Barrier-free.
“John preached a baptism … for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus came to John to be washed; yet he had no sin. So, why? Perhaps it was a statement of solidarity. … Jesus is in solidarity with humanity, at one with us, and therefore at one with” all our troubles and tribulations … “at one with us wherever we may be. The challenge for us is to accept a two way street. If Jesus is one with us, are we bold enough to be one with him?”2
Are we able to be in community with the one who came to be in community with us as the Word made flesh? Are we able to allow ourselves to belong to him … to be with him as he is with the Father? (see the Gospel of John)
You are my child, the beloved; with you I am well pleased. “This has nothing to do with being worthy or good. It has to do with being bonded with God and each other. Jesus’ solidarity calls for our solidarity.”3
We are called to be in community … to belong to each other. This is what Baptism is about … it is not, in my opinion, something to do for the sake of doing it … You enter into Baptism, you seek it, you participate in it, because you want to belong in community … because you are called by the Spirit to belong to community.
This isn’t always easy, however. In fact, many of our communities which practice Baptism exclude rather than include. They push folks out of community. Some of us in this room have experienced that.
It is wrong!
Through the waters of baptism, regardless of who you are, you become full, whole, members of Christ’s own broken body — you are in Christ as Christ is in you — and there is no possible way of removing that imprint.
And because you are in Christ and Christ is in you, you belong here as much as Christ.
Whenever we hear — or are told — that we are not welcome for who we are in a Christian community … then Christ too is being rejected.
Through the waters of Baptism, we are made participants in a radical community in which all are welcome to belong — a community made up of those on the margins, made up of those excluded, made up of those who everyone else has turned away.
The one who was rejected has become the cornerstone.
And to that corner, to that foundation, we belong.
Through Baptism, we stand with God working toward solidarity with the vulnerable, the oppressed, and the excluded. We work in solidarity with ourselves and with each other.
What community do you belong to?