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Have you been baptized today?
To most people, I think that question seems like a pretty straight-forward, yes or no sort of thing. Either you have or you haven't. Baptism is a central and vital part of a lot of Christian denominations. Some believe that a person becomes a "child of God" once baptized through an ordained member of clergy. Others have baptism later in life, a process that inevitably comes with fellowship and acceptance into a community. And some adore the cultural value of a water baptism, with family members coming together in harmony for a big celebration. Certainly, there's nothing wrong with any of these traditions. They are beautiful and sacred and very dear to many. But I want to talk about a different aspect of baptism than just the surface-level (pun intended) submergence into water. I want to talk about what actually goes on in a person's head, in a person's heart, beneath the surface and all appearances.
I'm submerged in water -- in some degree -- each and every day. But do I call that act of submerging myself in water every morning a "baptism"? Well of course not. I call that a shower. So what, then, distinguishes a baptism from a bath?
Also, is there more than one kind of baptism? The Bible uses the words baptize, baptized, and baptism a total of 80 times, exclusively in the New Testament. The eponymous John the Baptist practiced what's referred to as the "baptism of repentance" in the gospels, as a way of paving the way for Christ. But he also spoke of different types of baptism -- as did Jesus -- baptizing with the Holy Ghost, with fire, and with Spirit. Which raises another question: does baptism happen more than just once?
When people came to John the Baptist who were insincere, he detected that and told them to leave and come back when they could prove their sincerity through how they were living their lives. So I think this hints at the fact that baptism is more than just a shower; it's related to how you live your life. And while the baptism of repentance is a very important one, I actually want to table that one from discussion today and focus more on what's called the "baptism of the Holy Ghost."
In an article titled "Pond and Purpose," the Rev. Mary Baker Eddy talks about three different types of baptism and the different states of mind that they correspond to. Here's a little bit of what she has to say.
"The baptism of the Holy Ghost is the spirit of Truth cleansing from all sin; giving ... new motives, new purposes, new affections, all pointing upward. This mental condition settles into strength, freedom, deep-toned faith in God; and a marked loss of faith in evil... It develops individual capacity, increases the intellectual activities, and so quickens moral sensibility...
By purifying human thought, this state of mind permeates with increased harmony all the minutiae of human affairs. It brings with it wonderful foresight, wisdom, and power; it unselfs ... purpose, gives steadiness to resolve, and success to endeavor."
Fresh motives, deep-toned faith in God, success in endeavor... sign me up! I think this is really key -- discussing the states of mind a person experiences. Because regardless of whether you believe that water has to be blessed by a priest, or if you have to recite a specific set of words, or whatever your specific belief, wouldn't you agree that your state of mind and how you subsequently live you life is central?
Have you ever had a moment where you felt so inspired, so energized, like you had a million different things you wanted to do and you couldn't wait to get started? Perhaps someone who's just landed a dream job might be feeling that way, like they can't wait to get to work. Or perhaps someone who's just learned something brand new in school that they really enjoy and can't wait to show off. All these states of mind, where a person is feeling like they've unlocked whatever it is they were made to do -- whatever it is God has called them to do -- corresponds to the "baptism of the Holy Ghost," in some degree.
The simple fact is that water alone does little to inspire a person. It is what's behind it all -- the motives, ambitions, desires, and so on -- that really matters. In the 8th chapter of Acts, there's a story about a rich eunuch who's traveling on a caravan to Jerusalem. Along the way, he encounters Philip, a young Christian disciple, who shows him something he's never seen before. Immediately after being taught, the eunuch desperately asks to be baptized -- he wants to get things started as soon as possible! That encounter ends with the eunuch going on his way, "rejoicing." Then in the 10th chapter of Acts, the apostle Peter -- for the very first time -- welcomes outsiders (non-Jews) into his church and baptizes them. They were "astonished" and overjoyed, and celebrated with him for more than a week straight.
That astonishment, that rejoicing, that state of mind is something that we can cultivate each and every day. That's the state of mind that sees freedom, sees possibility, sees opportunity. That's the state of mind that knows you were made with a purpose and can't wait to dive into really living that purpose. And daily cultivation of that mentality is so much more important than just taking a shower. (Though, please do remember to shower!) Seen in this light, we can also look for ways that we can baptize others, daily. By that I mean we can inspire people, help them unlock their own talents and abilities, and find their own passion in life.
So I ask again: have you been baptized today?