Baptism as Worship

I talked a while back about how the baptismal font speaks to us just by virtue of what it is.  The construction of the font, what is on it, where it is in the sanctuary, all of that, together with what’s around it, all says something about what the church believes about baptism. All of that holds true with the rite itself too.  How the rite is conducted, where it’s conducted, and everything else done around the rite speaks to what the sacrament is doing.

Martin Luther often describes faith as the first and most fundamental act of worship.  Without faith, one will not desire any of God’s gifts.  That isn’t something Christians will generally debate, but it is a message that we will communicate.  In a number of churches, baptism is a rite that is done right at the beginning, even before the formal service has begun.  This suggests that baptism is not a part of worship.  It suggests that baptism is separate and even unrelated to the rest of the normal worship life of the congregation.

While it’s true that the early church often baptized outside of the worship service and even outside of the church proper, those newly baptized were then brought in into the service where the acknowledgement and celebration of that baptism was made a central feature of the service.

This problem is further compounded by the speed with which we conduct the rite.  When baptism is outside the service, instead of central to it, baptism can feel like an intrusion, as something that disrupts the flow of worship. 

This is all especially unfortunate since God’s Word and sacraments are the basis for the church’s life.  Baptism is one of the most important events in a Christian’s life.  That also makes it one of the most fundamental acts of worship.

Baptism is intended to be a part of worship.  This is in large part because placing it in the service also communicates the place baptism has in Christian life.  As Christians, we hear God’s Word and trust His promises.  Now, with that faith and trust in God He directs us to the next gift He offers: baptism.  Like Philip with the Ethiopian eunuch, after hearing what God has to say, the eunuch asks to be baptized because it is the natural next step. Placing it in the service following the reading of God’s Word reminds us of baptism’s place in our life as building on our faith, as well as preparing us to meet God face to face in Communion.

Such is the extent baptism impacts our life. There are so many ways in which we can help others draw on what God offers in the sacraments. We should not neglect any opportunity we have to bring God’s grace into life of church.

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