Looking into Baptismal Waters

“None but the righteous
None but the righteous
None but the righteous
Shall see God”

 | “Take me to the water,” African American Spiritual

There is tap water, mineral water, spring or glacier water, sparkling water, distilled water, purified water, flavored, infused, and alkaline water. There all are kinds of safe drinking water, unless you live in Flint, Michigan.

I wonder, “What kind of water baptism requires?” Water that draws out what it means to follow Jesus and drowns out all the competing ways of human being? Water that strains and lessens birthing pains? What kind of water is this?

Holy water. River, stream, pond, baptistery filled with water. Three feet, four feet, five feet, six feet deep, bend your knees, tilt your head back, hold your nose, aid in your own burial kind of water.

Warmed and freezing cold water. Dressed in white robes before we enter this water. Eulogy the same: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.” Our entry into new life is a watery grave. We practice resurrection, Christ’s resurrection.

Water that cleanses for the remission of sins, marks that one is born again and later is added as a condition of church membership. We are given a baptism certificate as if it is a finished work, as if we have done the salvific work ourselves. The right hand of fellowship does not seal the deal. Cleansing ritual and rite of passage, entry point and an exit strategy from the old self, old world, and its habits.

Baptism, baptizo for the Greeks, was adapted from the Jewish tradition of immersion in a ritual bath.[i]  Jesus uses water, infuses water into our storied identity, turns water into wine, drives a herd of swine into the water for a man’s deliverance. Water is natural and miraculous.

As much as 60 percent of the adult human body is water, according to H.H. Mitchell in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Water inside and out, watered within and without, baptism invites us to take on more water.

As baptized believers, we live watery lives. We walk with wet feet. We enter spaces dripping wet with proof of our death and new life with and in and through Jesus the Christ.

It drips from our lips and our hair and our fingertips onto floors padded, carpeted, wooden, earthen, scrubbed, polished, dusty, matted with gum and playdough, greasy, sticky, mixed with urine, milk and coffee.

Stained. We get in the water, “the cleansing flood,” after promises that we will be good, clean, saved, righteous. Fresh start, the water erases all that we were. Blank slate but not blank stares, we see as Christ sees now. We are his body.

We speak from submerged places of being. We go down in the deep and into dark spaces where human beings do not live. We go down into water with mammals— sharks and seahorses, whales, octopus, and schools of fish. We go down deep where the Spirit hovers and calls us children of God.

Baptism is story- dependent. We are baptized because of the story of Jesus— but also because of our own story. Our story that separates the good from bad people. Parting waters and drawing a line, baptism is part of our desire to become a good person, to be on the right side.

We want to please our parents, please our grandparents, please God. So we called and said, “Please, God, save me” and this made the congregation happy.

We want to be a part of the festivities, join in the shouting and singing. We want to become a member, receive the right hand of fellowship, join the flock, and have a shepherd, a pastor. We want to be saved from some past, present, or future bad person, place, or thing. We want to be saved from our past, present, and future self who was, is and will be in bad places, who has done, is doing and will do bad things.

We just want to be called good even though God said it in the beginning.

[i] “Baptism,” New World Encyclopedia, www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Baptism, Accessed on January 31, 2022.

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Seeking to lead words and people to their highest and most authentic expression, I am the principal architect of a race/less world.

2 thoughts on “Looking into Baptismal Waters

  1. Wonderful writing and imagery, Star. Sadly, we humans too often use ‘good’ and ‘God’ to divide rather unite. A marker for spiritual maturity is recognizing that our Creator’s love transcends our effort and constructs. Thank you for that reminder.

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