Archive for January, 2014

The Meaning of Baptism (Plus: Location Change!)

// January 10th, 2014 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

Note that this Sunday Kidd Springs Rec Center is closed for some maintenance, so we are relocating for the week.  Fred and Ashley have graciously offered their home, 410 E. 5th Street on the South side of Lake Cliff Park, for our Sunday service.  Next week, we will return to Kidd Springs.

I have a terrible memory, but I remember being baptized.  Or at least I have constructed a memory from the scraps that remain.  As Baptists, you would think baptism would be pretty important.  After “being saved” we went through classes to teach us the meaning of it all and we were assured that baptism meant a great deal.  However, as Baptists, it was all merely symbolic, an outward sign of an inward transformation.  It doesn’t really do anything.  In any case, it turned out to be one of those things whose significance quickly diminishes under the particulars of its execution.

As an outward sign, it was primarily for the onlookers.  Since that time I have heard many a parent express their joy that their child was getting baptized.  I doubt the kid’s experience has changed much at all: when to enter the water; where to stand; how to hold your hands; don’t look at the congregation, don’t wave, and don’t say a word or so help me!  As a result, I don’t remember it as much of a milestone; nothing much changed for me that day.

As pastor of this post-modern, quasi-Baptist church, I wonder if I’ll ever be on the other side, the one doing the dipping.  So many people at Church in the Cliff have already been baptized, either as infants or as newborn believers later in life.  Since we’re not big on “saving” people in the sense of having them walk down the aisle to make a declaration, I fear that baptism is lost to us as a meaningful enterprise.  But I hope not.

Baptism is potentially invested with so much meaning.  It is our way of talking about the mythology of water: cleansing, transformation, memory, death, and birth.  As such, it is simultaneously inter-religious and specifically Christian.  Muslims practice ritual ablutions, wudu.  Hindus bathe in the Ganges to wash away sin and prepare them for moksha, release from the cycle of life and death.  And for Christians, it is interpreted by Jesus and John the Baptizer in the River Jordan.  In baptism, like Christ, we descend into the grave and rise again, a new creature in a new world.  We die to the old self, the self of ego and sin, and we are born anew, ready to try it all over again.  I hope we don’t lose that.  Maybe we should be baptized every day.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Fred and Ashley’s, 410 E. 5th Street as we talk about the baptism of Jesus and what it might mean to us.

Grace and Peace,


// January 4th, 2014 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

This coming week marks the end of Christmastide, which culminates in Epiphany on Monday. In Advent, we anticipated the coming of the Incarnation, the Anointed One of God, who will make everything new and set everything right. There is a great mystery in Advent, wonder and awe at what might be. Then the baby is born. As many new parents have probably experienced, it changes a lot of things. More than that, it changes constantly. I’ve observed a lot of parents and there is still a lot of wonder and mystery: What does she want? Why is she doing that? Who is this child? Who will she become? What is my part in this? A babe has been born to the world; now comes the real work.

I’m sure all parents – and all people doing new things, really – hope that there will come a time when it all makes sense. Some days are better than others. You might be pretty sure she’s hungry, but that doesn’t always work. Maybe she has an earache. You hope nothing is really wrong. Even with all the books out now, every child is a special, crying snowflake. And then you hand her a shoe and she’s happy as a clam. It’s a small victory, but it’s an epiphany. You had it right, just that once. Maybe you do know something, after all.

An epiphany doesn’t tell us everything. And the things it tells us probably feel more certain than they actually are. After all, there is living to be done. This is just the beginning: of revelation, of what we know, of work, of life, of love. Epiphany tells us who this child is and it feels like a victory. We should celebrate! But it is just the beginning. Who will this child become? What will the world be for his presence? What is our part?

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we talk about what it means to have God with us and what we might know about it. Remember, we also have our monthly community meeting at the end of the service where we will vote on the operating budget that was presented at our last community meeting in December. Hope to see you!

Grace and Peace,