At St. Margaret’s we are in the middle of two big weeks. This past Sunday we baptized twin girls and this coming Sunday we are baptizing another baby girl. It is fairly rare for our parish to have back-to-back baptisms. For the Altar Guild, that has meant that the same paraments can stay on the altar, the Pascal Candle can stay in the sanctuary, and flowers will be equally festive. For the liturgical leaders it means that the occasionally used service is much more familiar as we head into this weekend – we should not need as much preparation and should be primed for who is holding what and when (it turns out there is a lot of choreography when it comes to liturgy!). And for the parish, the liturgy will be very familiar and they will be ready for their big line, “We will!” when it is their turn to affirm that they will do all in their power to support these persons in their life in Christ.
But just because this coming Sunday feels familiar or even repetitive, nothing about it is rote. That is the thing about baptisms: although everything surrounding the day is the same, the experience is totally unique. In the Episcopal Church, we only baptize once. A baptism is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, something that is tremendously significant and special. Nothing can invalidate our baptism. Once we are welcomed into the household of God, nothing the person does can take away that status. Baptism is a big deal.
I have often heard it said that you should never miss a funeral. A funeral only happens once, and is something you can never recreate. Though many of us fear what to say or do or how to approach the family, just being there becomes a blessing to the bereaved and to you. It is a practice many have come to value: always go to the funeral. In fact, I began to embrace that mantra fully after seeing this story.
I think the same can be said of a baptism. Though the liturgy is always the same, the liturgy says and does something very important. It is not about the pretty dresses or handsome outfits. It is about a sacred thing that happens. It is about committing to a way of life – declaring the importance of faith in one’s life and agreeing to live in a certain way. It is about renewing our own commitment to our baptismal covenant – something that, if done regularly, could probably help us change the world. And it is about standing tall as a community, and taking ownership for the ways in which we form one another. When we jubilantly say, “We will!”, our commitment is to being a community that lives life in a radically different way – in seeking Jesus, in serving Jesus, and in sharing Jesus. When we stand at the font as a community we are claiming a radical identity that changes everything in our lives. Something bold, invigorating, and life-giving happens at baptism. You may think that if you have seen one baptism, you have seen them all. On the contrary, I suggest that each one has a unique way of transforming us in Christ. For the health of ourselves, the community, and the newly baptized, we need to be at the baptism as much as the family wants us to be there. Always go to the baptism. It will change your life.