Taking Baptism Seriously 1.0

There are four orders of ministers in the Church.  There are bishops, priests, deacons, and lay.  The Church spends a good bit of its resources on ensuring that the first three are up-to-snuff (whatever that might mean in the given context).  It is generally up to those three, the ordained clergy, to disciple the fourth, the laity, and ensure their up-to-snuff-ness.  Some Christians may not like that idea – they’re not “professional” Christians (ie. not clergy).  Why should they have to be involved in the Church’s ministry?  They were never ordained in the Church – what right do they have to tackle this task?

The old joke was that clergy-people were paid to be good, but that laypeople were good for nothing.  I would dispel this idea to some extent, because I’m not paid to be good.  I am not paid for services rendered.  Rather, I am afforded an allowance, a stipend, by the local church (through the diocese), to allow me to live within this geographical parish.  All of the “services rendered” are a function of the person I am, because of who and what God is continually making me.

In the same way, all Christians are called to ministry because ministry is the fulfillment of who and what God is making them.  Lay people in the Church may not generally consider themselves to have been ordained, and perhaps they weren’t ordained to the particular ministry of the priesthood in the Church, to thus maintain the order of the Church, but something like it did happen to them.  They were baptized.  You were baptized.

There are so many things to be said about baptism, but I will here only point in the directions that we’re going to go in future blog posts.  We can talk about baptism’s roots – where did this practise come from? was it an anomaly that sprung up in a void?  We can talk about the symbolism of baptism – what is signified by the water? what is the meaning inherent in the rite?  We can talk about the elements of baptism – why water? how was it instituted this way?  We can talk about the vows taken in baptism – what are they? what significance do they hold? how are they practically applied to daily living?  We can talk about covenantal relationship with God – what does it mean to be God’s people?  We can talk about taking our own baptisms seriously.

All these and more, to come.

Plato’s Cave?

This week I’m on retreat.  I’m not running away from a battle, but I’m taking some “me” time.  The church recommends these periodically, and provides outlets.  This week the clergy of my diocese (Qu’Appelle) and of the Diocese of Saskatoon are at St. Michael’s Retreat Centre in Lumsden, SK.  Our guest speaker is Bishop Mark MacDonald, and it will prove to be a great retreat.

The Lord has inspired me in a couple of ways since leaving Swift Current today.  I’m not sure if it’s the music I was listening to (my friend Keith Kitchen is my travel companion), or the events of the last few days, or just God’s initiative (which it ultimately relies on, whatever other factors may have paved the way for Him to inspire…), but I’m sharing one thing now.  The other isn’t ready just yet.  Only He knows what else might come, in time.

I was always struck by Plato’s Cave.  If you’re unfamiliar, it’s in The Republic.  Basically, humanity is tied in a cave, and all that people can see is shadows on a wall, being generated by people carrying things past a fire that’s burning at some location behind them.  The philosopher is the human who has broken free from the cave and found a tunnel to the surface.  Upon seeing what things really are, in daylight, he returns to the cave and tries to share with the people there what he has come to learn.  They are resistant to his “new” knowledge, and generally prefer the darkness and the names and items they have imagined from the shadows.  That’s a pretty rough paraphrase, but it will have to function for us just now.  There was always something about that story that seemed to resonate with me, but there was always something missing, something “off” about it, from the reality that I’ve come to know through the Christian faith.

Humanity is trapped in an Imax theatre.  The giant screen in front of them makes them think that they’re travelling, makes them think that they’re interacting with the truth, makes them think that they’re living life.  But they’re deceived.  The truth is that they’re prisoners, and their life is a mirage.  There is a way out of the theatre, and one man, Jesus, who has come in via that way can lead them out.  If they’ll follow Him.  He’ll take them out, if they’ll give up their theatre seats.  Real life, all of the things flashed in front of them on the screen, exists outside of the theatre.  Jesus came into the theatre so that they might have real life, not the mockery of it that the theatre seduces them into.  Many don’t listen to Him: the things He’s describing seem so much like the things they already see before their eyes – isn’t He just imagining something more?  Many don’t listen to Him: the theatre seat they’re in is so comfortable, what if they get up and someone else takes it – or, worse yet, it gets cold (nobody likes sitting in a cold chair!)?

The question before each of us is this: will we go with Him, or will we stay in the theatre?  There is no other way.

Of Apples and Injury

The rotten apple injures its neighbour.

Corruption breeds corruption.  I think that’s the main thing that this gets at.  It seems to be the way of the world – the way of the universe!  Cause and effect.  You reap what you sow.  Many of us are familiar with this phenomenon, many of us have opened a box of apples or oranges, found that one is particularly rotten, and then found that there are rotten spots on all the others that were around it and touching it.  Decay brings decay.

But in so many things we wish it were otherwise – and so many people live as though it were otherwise.  How many people that you’ve known have been surprised when this turns out to be the case?  They’ve gotten in trouble with the law and they’ve blamed that police, or blamed the law itself, rather than accepting that they transgressed?  Or they’ve been “inexplicably” let go from a job that they regularly shunned, made fun of, showed up late for, called in “sick” from, and basically disrespected in every way imaginable?  Or their spouse repeatedly thinks that they’re having relational issues “for no reason at all,” while they’re consistently allowing their mind to dwell in lust for other people?

Have you ever known anyone like that?  Are you someone who has been, or is, like that in some way?  It can be hard to accept that the rotten apple injures its neighbour.  It can also be easy to see it when it’s clearly taking effect in someone else’s life.

Praise God, then, for His mighty gift of salvation for us in Jesus Christ – who is the good apple, thrown into the box of rotten apples, and who actually restores the rottenness of the rest of the box!  In Him, alone, is our life!  God’s way is not our way; it is not the way of the world; if we, as His Church, would fulfill the mission of His Gospel, then we must first receive the blessing of that same Gospel, and be renewed in Him.  The apple that works against the rule that we otherwise know works in pretty much all things.

A Proverb Reflection

Clearly I’m not real ‘blogger’ material – I rarely post, let alone daily, and even with something that’s supposed to be a series I am sporadic in my posts, at best.  At any rate, here’s another kick-at-the-can:

The sun loses nothing by shining into a puddle.

The logical truth of this proverb seems obvious.  The sun affects the puddle; the puddle has no effect on the sun.  Consider, briefly, what the sun does effect on the puddle, though.  A puddle is, generally, water.  It can sometimes be murky or muddy.  Whatever its state, however, the sun has the same effect – to lighten or brighten the water.  The murkiness of the water may determine how deep the light penetrates into its depths, but if we’re talking about a puddle and not a lake/sea/ocean, then I don’t think it’s a real factor.  The puddle reflects the light, also, even as the light penetrates it.

But there’s more to this than meets the eye.  Proverbs are useless if they only describe something that science could just as easily describe more precisely.  So what is the situation being referred to, here?  It’s hard to make a definitive answer to that kind of question.  Often there are many applicable situations to such a thing.  But here’s what it makes me think of:

Jesus.  He had this thing about cleanliness – about the outside and the inside.  Remember?  What’s outside doesn’t make a person unclean, but what’s inside.  He regularly touched people who were regarded as unclean, and His rule-of-thumb with that was that rather than being made unclean by them His purity was rubbing off on them.  So rather than the sun being darkened by the puddle, the puddle was enlightened by the sun.  But it takes a proper understanding of what the mud, and the light, is.

Consider, too, that you are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  He hasn’t set us ablaze to hide us under a bowl.  Matthew 5.  His holiness brings us holiness.  His light reflects off of this puddle.  He is not darkened by the endeavour in any way.  What kind of puddle are you?  It’s easy and natural for the light to reflect off of the water’s surface.  How deeply does His light penetrate you, puddle?  What is the depth of murkiness inside?