Friday, March 06, 2009

do over

For: The Institute of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Red Online Worship History Course with Dan Wilt

This week we have been studying baptism and the Eucharist. If there is one thing that I don't like about baptism, it is that you only do it once. You can take the bread and wine in remembrance of Jesus every day of your life if you want to, but baptism is pretty much a one time deal. And I sometimes wish that I could do it again. Not that there was anything wrong with my first time, a pouring of water over my head at a Mennonite church, but a lot has transpired since then. At times, I seem like such a different person. I have given up many old habits and come alive to lots of new ones. I have corrected my course a few times on this journey with or "into" Jesus. Every day I die to some fear or ignorance and find myself discovering new life in truth and love.

Yes, baptism symbolises that choice of dying to self and living to Christ, being identified with him in his life and death, repentance and turning around, and resurrection into something profoundly spiritual and alive and new. Yes, this is an experience, a decision, a turning point that happens once and lasts and guides a lifetime, but it is also an everyday choice. Everyday I choose again not to go my own way, not to listen to that demanding whiny voice that insists that I please myself; instead, I choose to follow a bigger, more truthful, more grand voice. Everyday I say no to maintaining my own little status quo, or giving in to entropy because it is pressing all around me. Everyday I choose to fight for my life as a follower of Jesus, and that means plenty of death along the way. Simply put, all change is a death to the way things are and a resurrection to something new.

I forgot my book at a friend's house a few days ago, and since I needed it for a class last night, I had to make an unexpected trip downtown to see him. This triggered an old memory of when I was a young lass, and I was visiting my sister in Winnipeg for the weekend. We went to see her best friend's brother who was in the hospital with a badly broken limb. I kind of liked the guy, but I was leaving the next day and would probably never see him again. So I did something silly. I intentionally forgot my glasses in his hospital room. The next morning, early, before I had to catch my bus for home, I made a cold 30 minute trek in the winter snow to the hospital to fetch my glasses. I spent not more than 2 minutes in his room. I put on my glasses, said a quick good-bye to the boy I found interesting, and then trekked all the way back to my sister's apartment and rushed off to catch the bus.

I can see that even then I was a deeply passionate and affectionate person, but I had no idea how to translate this into appropriate and genuinely generous behaviour. Why was it so hard for me to simply say, "Hey, I find you interesting and would go out of my way to see you again." Why must there be an excuse to be extravagant with our affection and show someone that they are valuable to us? It is not cool, I guess, and it means that we put ourselves in a vulnerable position and leave ourselves open for rejection. But I have pretty much died to being cool, and I have come alive to vulnerability and honesty. I try to take any rejection that comes my way and plunge it under the water and come up with humility firmly in my grasp. My affection has gone through a baptism. It is no longer I who lives in need of reciprocated love, but Christ who lives in the joy of love freely given. At least that is where I am trying to live. There is baptism involved every day. I thrust the old, bad patterns under the water and keep them there until they stop struggling and let go. Then a hand reaches down and lifts me up, gasping deep, holy breaths of spiritual grace and peace.

Baptism is a sort of do over. A chance to live life anew, and I need this every day of my life. My morning shower is a good symbol of that daily surrender.

This photo was taken at Fair Haven Retreat Centre just outside of Beaverton, Ontario.

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