Baptism and What it Means to be Human


Last Sunday morning, as did many Christians, we remembered the baptism of Jesus.  We gave thanks for great gifts of grace and mercy which flow into us and surround us through our immersion in the love of God made known in Jesus’ life, teachings, death and resurrection.

We said together this Affirmation:

You, O God, are wonderful and holy,
the Creator of the world and the Author of Life.

You revealed your love for us in the history of Israel
and in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Through him, you reconcile, heal, and overcome death.

Your Holy Spirit energizes your church with grace,
and empowers us to live like Jesus in the world.

We celebrate the gift of baptism,
a sign of the womb of new birth,
of the cleansing power of your mercy,
of the thirst-quenching water of your presence,
of the grave in which shame and guilt die,
and of our resurrection with Jesus to a life of joy and hope.

We give you thanks and praise that, with Jesus,
we are your children, in whom you take great delight,
and that you are giving us everything we need
to live the lives you are calling us to live.  Amen.

Sunday night, as part of our “Second Thoughts” series (conversations about hard questions at the intersection of faith and life), we explored what it means to be human.  Though this paragraph might make very little sense without the context of my whole presentation (it might not make much sense even with my whole presentation!), here’s my conclusion, which I offered at the outset of my talk:

Human beings live with contradiction and in paradox, beginning with the simple fact that there are great lines of continuity between us and animals but that we also have the capacity for transcendence and for God.  We are creatures of the earth, who bear the image of God.  We are formed by language and stories.  We have the capacity to envision a future, to intend certain ways of living in that future, and to have hope.  We have an immense longing, a restless and intense yearning, for beauty, meaning and love.  We were made by God for God, who wants our living to be lively—who wants us to experience abundant, free, and joyful life.

I am aware that there are strong and crucial connections between baptism and this view of what it means to be human.  Christian anthropology is really another way of doing Christology: we are most human and most alive when we are most like Jesus.