Friday, April 16, 2010

Come On In Boys, the Water's Fine...

I'm not just a huge fan of bluegrass music. I can listen to a little, very little, but there is a soundtrack to one movie that I absolutely love. The movie is "O Brother Where Art Thou" and on the soundtrack Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris, and Gillian Crouch sing "Down to the River to Pray." If you haven't watched the movie, I'll see if I can find that clip and post a link.

The scene is a baptismal scene. As the camera pans out through the woods you get a glimpse of dozens of people in white robes making their way down to the river. Everett, Pete, and Delmar are standing there taking it all in and it then clicks with Delmar what is going on. He takes off running to the river and cuts past all of the people in line, and the next shot is of him being put under the water and brought back up. I love it!
As he comes up, he looks at Everett and Pete and tells them that the preacher done said all his sins have been washed away, including the Piggly Wiggly he knocked over in Yazoo. When Everett reminds him that he had told them he was innocent of those charges, Delmar said, "Well I lied, but the preacher said that sin is forgiven too." And then he does it, he throws his arms out, kicks his head back, and yells, "Come on in boys, the water's fine!"

What a baptismal scene! The reading this morning is from Matthew 3, where Jesus is baptized by John. For 2000 years we have been wrangling with the theology of that moment. Why did Jesus have to be baptized if baptism is for the repentence of sins? Why did he have to be immersed? What really happens at the moment we are baptized? Is it symbolic? Is it effectual?

Yes, it's symbolic. Yes, it's effectual. For my tradition it is an "Outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace." According to our denomination's statement on baptism it does several things; in baptism a child is cleansed of the guilt of original sin, initiated into the covenant with God, admitted into the church, made an heir in the divine kingdom, and spiritually born anew. (BWATS) John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement said that "while baptism was neither essential to nor sufficient for salvation, it was the 'ordinary means' that God designated for applying the benefits of the work of Christ in human lives."

I don't have enough room here to really get into a lengthy discussion on baptism, but just as our Church has done, I feel the need to get back to our sacramental roots. I am putting together a study on Methodism to start probably mid May. For now, if you're curious, I'm attaching a link to "By Water and the Spirit; A United Methodist Understanding of Baptism."
So, no wise cracks or huge faith questions today, just a conversation starter. Now the real test is, can folks of different faith traditions discuss baptism, or the sacraments in general, without getting upset with each other? I hope so, or Christ isn't present in our conversations.


1 comment:

  1. Hey a very good thought about the conversation but it depends on what one thinks about sacraments and ordinances and "the plan of salvation" you go Jamie I am proud of you.