Section 1: Opening Prayer
Merciful God, we thank you that you have made us your own by water and the Word in baptism. You have called us to yourself, enlightened us with the gifts of your Spirit, and nourished us in the community of faith. Uphold us and all your servants in the gifts and promises of baptism, and unite the hearts of all whom you have brought to new birth. We ask this in the name of Christ. Amen.
Section 2: Water and Word
As Lutherans, we talk about baptism as a gift of water and the Word. This is no normal bath! The water serves as a symbol of what God’s Word is doing, and together, we’re washed clean not just of dirt, but of the sin that separated us from God. Together, water and God’s Word make this a powerful moment of new birth in our lives.
Section 3: A Fusion for Life
In John 3, Jesus tells us that, “I assure you, unless someone is born anew, it’s not possible to see God’s kingdom.” Baptism serves as our new birth, for through these waters, God creates an entirely new you! It’s still you, but you cleansed of sin. It’s you as God intended you to be in creation. It’s you as God’s image, as God’s child, as God’s beloved.
This is important because it tells us that baptism is God’s work, not ours. Babies don’t birth themselves; instead, their mothers bring them into the world. In the same way, God brings us into the Kingdom of God through baptism, giving birth to us as renewed, cleansed creatures.
You might be asking, “How can water do such great things?”
Martin Luther asked the same question in his Small Catechism, and his response was that, “Certainly not just water, but the Word of God in and with the water does these things, along with the faith which trusts this word of God in the water. For without God’s word the water is plain water and no Baptism. But with the word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit.” In other words, we can’t look at a baptism font and see a bird bath. Nor can we go to a baptism at a lake and see a swimming hole. God’s presence makes these things so much more than they seem!
Luther further offers some powerful wisdom about God’s purpose of baptism. “Which is that word of God? Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Matthew: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). With the Word of God giving us new life, we’re called to become disciples who make disciples. We’re not just given new life for ourselves, but through that powerful Word of God in our lives, we’re called to bring that life to others as well.
Section 4: Walking Wet in the World
Some pastors call this renewed life, lived for others, “Walking Wet in the World.” In other words, we’re constantly reminded that we’re born anew and that we have a purpose as new creatures: to bring good life to others too.
Of course, this is difficult at times. Luther didn’t avoid that difficulty. Instead, he faced it head on. He said that baptism “indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” His daily reminder for this? The bath! That’s right. God’s presence, always with us, can even be felt as we wash ourselves in the morning and face the day. We remember that God took regular water and made it special through the Word to bring us new life.
In the same way, God takes regular us and makes us special through baptism, calling us to live lives like Jesus. That’s what walking wet in the world is all about.
So, for you, how do you walk wet in the world? Or how do you want to? What are some ways that your baptism could become more alive? Or, if you’re not baptized yet, what are you most excited about on the other side of this new birth?
The ELCA thinks about this as the five gifts of discipleship. In the baptismal liturgy, we’re called to do five things:
- live among God’s faithful people.
- hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s Supper.
- proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed.
- serve all people following the example of Jesus.
- strive for justice and peace in all the earth.
These are great ways to rethink those questions above. How do you live your baptism as a member of the church? How do you hear God’s word and take communion as a gift? How do you proclaim God’s forgiveness and share that grace with others? How do you serve all people, and all creation, following Jesus’ lead? How do you strive for justice and peace, making God’s priorities your own? Each of these links will take you to examples on the ELCA website of how this works.
More important than that, though, is seeing these come alive in your own life. Beyond the questions here, think about what you’d like to see more of daily. Perhaps you’re great at serving, but don’t often speak of the Gospel. Perhaps you hear God’s word regularly, but don’t know what that justice looks like in the earth.
This is why our community of baptized people are so important. We help one another to live our baptisms daily, walking wet in the world together with Jesus and never alone. Baptism calls us into God’s work, and readies our hands for the task.
Section 5: Closing Prayer
Almighty God, who gives us a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit and forgives us all our sins, strengthen us in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep us in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Opening and Closing Prayers from Sundays and Seasons.com. Copyright 2016 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission under Augsburg Fortress Liturgies Annual License #25165.