The Fifth Sunday of Easter – Acts 8:26-40
“As they were going along the road they came to some water and the eunuch said to Philip, ‘Look here is water. What is to prevent me from being baptized?’”
When was the last time you thought about your baptism? Did you think about it this past week? This past month? This past year? Do you remember it?
We do not have a baptism today and we are not going to renew our baptismal vows and I think that makes this a perfect day to talk about baptism because I want to talk about baptism as something more than what happens when we baptize during the liturgy. I want us to think about baptism as something that is happening all the time.
“Look here is water. What is to prevent me from being baptized?”
I wonder what the eunuch was thinking? What did he want for his life? What was he hoping for? What thirst took him to those waters? I wonder if there were parts of his life that needed to go, needed to drown and die, so that something new could arise. I wonder if there were parts of him waiting and wanting to come to life? More than that, I wonder how you would answer those questions today.
I don’t remember my baptism in the church, I was just a baby. But I remember so many times that I have been baptized throughout my life. I remember when our youngest son, Randy, was about three or four years old and getting down on the floor with him and pretending that we were different kinds of animals going though the forest doing all sorts of stuff, and making all sorts of animal sounds. That was one of my baptisms. He was baptizing me into playfulness and imagination; waters that I’ve stayed away from for far too long.
I remember that trip down the Frio River with Brandon and Randy and we came to this particular water fall where the water comes over the rocks like a curtain, and you can get behind the water in the hollow of the rock. We sat back there, the three of us with our arms around one another laughing and splashing. Afterwards Randy said, “I don’t think we have ever smiled that big before.” And we were being baptized into each others lives.
I remember standing here in this church that day I married Brandon and Erin, and I remember sitting out there the day we buried him, and how both of those experiences in such different ways baptized me into being a dad in ways I could never have imagined.
And I think about the people that have called me or come to my office and said, “Can I talk to you about my life and tell you what is going on?” And every one of them baptized my priesthood in the waters of their life, inviting me to be more myself with them.
And I often return to that day, so many years ago, when I called my priest and said, “My life is a mess and I don’t know what to do.” I sat in his office and he baptized me into the truth of my pain and my brokenness and into the possibilities of something new, a different way of being and living.
Just a couple of nights ago I was sitting on the back porch with my wife and a glass of wine watching the sun go down. The sky had turned orange and a golden light played on the green leaves of the trees. Mexican tree ducks were flying across the sky. We talked about everything and we talked about nothing. And I looked at my wife and thought, “How beautiful is my life. How amazing is this.” And the waters of baptism washed over me again, immersing me in love.
And I can’t count the number of times that the waters of baptism flowed out of my eyes and down my cheeks as I once again realized how real life is, how beautiful it is, and how fragile and painful it can be.
Every one of those was a baptism. Every one of those was an experience in which I opened myself or the world opened to me, and my life was deepened and I was awakened. I was enlarged. I was different and forever changed. Those baptism were as real, holy, and life giving as that day a priest poured water over my head in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Baptism doesn’t happen just in the font at the back of the church. We’ve been taught and come to believe there is only one baptism in the church. And I think that is right, but I want to put the emphasis on “in the church.” In the church there is only one baptism. In life we are baptized over and over and over again.
Every time we come to those places in our life, those people, and those relationships, that open to us and invite us to be more fully ourselves, we are being baptized. Every time we experience something that cleanses our eyes and we see more clearly, we are being baptized. Every time something happens in our heart and we love more deeply, we are being baptized. Every time we begin to live from a new place of wisdom or gratitude, we are being baptized.
That one baptism that happens in the church was never intended to be exclusive. It’s archetypical. It is the pointer to all the other baptisms in our world and our life. The waters of baptism are everywhere. Our marriage and relationships, our parenting, our friendships are all baptismal waters. Our work and vocation are baptismal waters. Our passions, dreams, and creativity are waters of baptism. Our concerns for justice and human dignity are baptismal waters. Our pain, brokenness, sorrows, and losses are baptismal waters.
The stories I’ve just told you are not unique to me. You have them too. Think of the many selves that make up your life and who you are. I’ve told you some of mine: the selves of being a husband, a dad, a priest; the selves that are broken, sorrowing, hopeful, and in love. What are yours? Look at the people, relationships, experiences in your life. In what ways have you been baptized? What baptism is happening in your life today? Where is your life being cleansed, renewed, or deepened? In what baptismal waters are you being immersed?
Let’s not forget that the baptismal waters are always paradoxical. The water from which new life is birthed is the same water in which life is drowned and dies. And it’s all grace, gift.
We need the fullness of all that those waters offer. There are parts of ourselves that need to drown and die. It’s not because they are bad and need to be punished or because they are wrong and need to be destroyed, but because they need to be transformed and resurrected. They need to be renewed and brought back to a different way of life. And there are other parts in us that are just waiting to be born. Seeds of possibility, hope, and new life deep within us waiting to be watered and brought to fruition.
The water of baptism is not contained solely in the fonts of our churches. The world is our baptismal font and our relationships, the people in our lives, our experiences are the holy waters in which we are baptized.
So I wonder for you today, what baptismal water is before you? What parts of your life need to be washed, renewed, healed? What is waiting to be born and brought to fruition? What parts of you need to die and drown, to be let go of so that something new can arise?
Even as our physical body needs water to survive, grow, and remain healthy, so does our soul. We know this. We experience it. There are times when we drink deeply of life and we’re in the flow. Life is vibrant, fruitful, beautiful. We’re swimming in the baptismal waters of this world. And there are those other times when life feels desolate and dry. We feel parched and empty. We’ve stepped out of the water. We’ve forgotten our baptism. Our soul is athirst for meaning, purpose, direction, and it’s time to return to the baptismal waters.
These many baptisms always happen in community and in relationship with one another. No one gets baptized alone or in isolation. We guide and help each other into the holy waters of life. When we baptize in the church, it is the community that surrounds the baptismal candidate and vows to support that one in his or her life in Christ. “We will,” the congregation declares. And so it is with our baptisms in the world. We do not baptize ourselves. The stories I told you about my baptisms could not have happened apart from those other people. Each one in his or her own way brought me to the waters of new life.
“As they were going along the road they came to some water.” That is not a story about only Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. It is not exclusive to them. It’s your story and my story. The road of our life is filled with watering holes. “Look, here is water!”
What if we began to look at the people in our lives, our relationships, our experiences as baptismal water? What will you do when you come to that next pool of baptismal water? What does it hold for you? How might God be enlarging, awakening, transforming, or deepening your life?
What is to prevent you and me from being baptized again and again and again? Nothing. Not a thing. “Look, here is some water!”