For our first Lent together at Awakening Church we’ve been fasting in three distinct phases: fasting from media, fasting from beverages other than water, and fasting from food other than rice and beans. But the most powerful moment of our Lenten practice for me was our time of baptisms on Sunday March 10, especially because it happened in the middle of our “water fast.” If we’re thinking about the way water is used for baptism, drinking only water helps us daily internalize the way we have been cleansed and offered new life through Jesus.
Lent literally means spring, the season of new life. This season invites us into an up-close and personal experience of the life and sufferings of Jesus: his forty days spent in the wilderness, his road to the cross, and ultimately his death and resurrection.
Baptism, which reminds us of Christ’s resurrection and marks our new life in Christ, lies at the very heart of Lent. Actually, Lent started as a season of preparing for baptism. As those who wished to be baptized observed a season of fasting, the rest of the community joined along with them. Lenten worship became a time when the whole community remembered together that, “Going under the water was a burial of your old life; coming up out of it was a resurrection, God raising you from the dead as he did Christ. When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive – right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross” (Colossians 2:12-13, The Message).
Baptism, then, identifies a person with the death and resurrection of Christ and publically marks her as belonging to the community of God. Our identity as sons and daughters of God is declared in baptism, just as Jesus’ identity as God’s son was affirmed at his own baptism (Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22). Being identified as God’s people was a little more problematic in the past (i.e.: circumcision or taking special vows, like John the Baptist or Samson), but not so anymore. Instead, baptism works like that for us, and the radical love of Christ sets us apart as God’s people. Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35, ESV).
This Lent, I am challenged to live up to my own baptism and my identity as part of the people of God. I am challenged to live up to Jesus’ revolutionary love that has forever marked me – a love for enemies and those who persecute right alongside a love for those in desperate need and those suffering from cruelty and injustice. In the wake of baptisms, I pray that God’s love marks each of us individually at Awakening Church and as an entire community, and I pray for the grace to more fully show Christ’s love to the world.
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