“John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim because water was abundant there.”
It sounds a little like Sutton’s law, doesn’t it? (The famous apocryphal story was that someone allegedly asked robber Willie Sutton why he robbed banks, and his answer was “Because that’s where the money is.”)
Well, guess what–John the Baptist was baptizing where he was, because that’s where all the water was.
It’s a simple lesson, yet we probably trip over it time and time again–When we need the power of a sacrament, go to where it exists in abundance. Don’t cogitate, don’t ask questions, just go to the place where there’s plenty of it.
Yet, when it comes to plunging in waist-deep in the waters of our own baptisms, our tendency is to hide or to rationalize. I suspect this is true not only for people pondering “should I be baptized or not?” but for those of us whose baptisms occurred long ago. Truthfully, we probably spend more time airing opinions about the rules and rubrics of baptism (and particularly how it relates to Holy Communion,) when we should be having more conversations about what it means to dive head-first into the waters of our own baptism and come up basking and floating in its abundance. The end result in this can be that, instead of going where the water is and actually getting wet, we stay at home and analyze the water instead. How might we begin to recognize where those flowing waters are?
A good place to start is our own Baptismal Covenant on p. 304 of our Book of Common Prayer. It starts with our affirmation of faith in the words of the Apostles’ Creed. The five questions after that are good clues to where we might find that abundantly flowing water. They suggest that the tap of living water is open full bore in several places–in the Eucharist and prayers, in repentance and forgiveness, in the proclamation of the Good News in Christ, in service that helps us see the face of Christ in faces we’ve never truly appreciated, and in the middle of the tensions to bring justice, peace, and dignity to all people.
This is easier said than done, and underscores a very real apprehension. Wading around in the waters of our baptism comes with the very real possibility of transformation–a transformation beyond our control. This fear can, at times, inhibit us. We are afraid of things like reconciliation and forgiveness, because that means we might actually have to treat someone differently and without our tightly held resentments. We are afraid to proclaim what God has done in our lives b/c it might sound uber-religious and weird. We avoid participating in the Eucharistic feast because we might have to trudge up to the Eucharistic banquet table table feeling less than fully in control. We might have to look with love on people that we used to have the luxury of demonizing. This is scary stuff–but, ultimately, we are only shortchanging ourselves when we avoid the places where the waters flow abundantly.
>Be careful, though–more than one of us has stood on the dock, planning only to splash our toes in it, and have the Holy Spirit shove us off the dock into the depths! (In my case, I think it was more like I was floating on top of it in an inner tube and the Holy Spirit swam underneath me and flipped the tube on me–but your metaphors may vary.)
How far out have you dared to tread into the waters of baptism, and into how big a body of water? How wet can you dare to get?