Friday, February 24, 2012

Immersion in the Identity of God

This morning I read a post in which a pastor was questioning infant baptism and youth confirmation.  As this is something I've contemplated off and on, I thought it would be my topic for today.  This is not to make light of the sacrament of baptism as practiced by churches.  I love seeing people baptized, but, I have wondered if we have made it into a basic formula and/or rite of passage and not looked much further than that.

Let's look at Matthew 28:19-20
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."  (NRSV)
At every baptism I have witnessed, the person doing the baptizing has said "I now baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (question:  while there are many names throughout the Bible for the Father, and the name of the Son is Jesus, what is the name of the Holy Spirit?).

But what if we took it further?  Instead of just thinking of baptism as water, and instead of thinking of the names as a formula for baptism, what if we thought of it as immersion in the identity of God?  What would it be like to be immersed in the name?

When I think of immersion, language immersion comes to mind.  People who really want to learn a new language may not just take a class in a language, but use it in all areas of life, even living in an area where it is the primary language.  They are immersed in this language.  It completely surrounds every part of their lives; there is no escaping it.

When I look through the Hebrew Scriptures, I see that the name of the LORD is a very big deal.  It is such a big deal, that it is the subject one of the first commandments told to the Israelites after God delivers them from Egypt.
7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. --Exodus 20:7, NRSV
This command is why YHWH, yod-hey-vav-hey, the tetragrammaton, is not used in Judaism.  It is why often some Jews will write HaShem (the name) or write G-d when referring to YHWH. It is sacred.

What's in a name, anyway?  Throughout the Bible, there are many, many references to the "name of the Lord".  It is something that is forever, great, wonderful, used to bless people, magnified, has a house created for it, majestic, praises sung to it, exalted, brings salvation, a place for refuge, worth dying for, something to be washed, sanctified, justified in...  and the list goes on and on.  This is just a small sampling of references (I've included the sampling of verses I used, but feel free to skip over them if you want to).
  • God also said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the Israelites, 'The LORD,the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you': This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations. --Exodus 3:15   
  • For I will proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God!--Deuteronomy 32:3  
  • But the angel of the LORD said to him, "Why do you ask my name? It is too wonderful." --Judges 13:18
  • But David said to the Philistine, "You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. --1 Samuel 17:45
  • When David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the offerings of well-being, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts, --2 Samuel 6:18  
  • Thus your name will be magnified forever in the saying, 'The LORD of hosts is God over Israel'; and the house of your servant David will be established before you. --2 Samuel 7:26  
  • Now the LORD has upheld the promise that he made; for I have risen in the place of my father David; I sit on the throne of Israel, as the LORD promised, and have built the house for the name of the LORD, the God of Israel. --1 Kings 8:20   
  • I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High. --Psalm 7:17
  • O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!--Psalm 8:1  
  • Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven. --Psalm 148:13
  • Then everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved; --Joel 2:32
  • For I will leave in the midst of you a people humble and lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the LORD --Zephaniah 3:12
  • Then Paul answered, "What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus."  --Acts 21:1
  • But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. --1 Corinthians 6:1
  • Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. --Philippians 2:9-11

The name is not just some stand-alone word.  It is wrapped up and maybe even indistinguishable from God himself; it is his identity.

And so, what would it mean to be immersed in the identity of God?  What would it mean to live our lives always thinking about God and completely surrounded by him?  How would that go along with the first part of Jesus' instruction to make disciples?  What if we thought of that instruction as
"make disciples of all nations, immersing them in the identity YHWH, in the identity of Jesus, in the identity of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you"
What would it look like for Christianity to deliberately be thought of and taught as a lifelong immersion class?    Would it make a difference in how churches reach out to non-Christians?  Would it make a difference in how we make daily decisions in our own lives?

I think it would.

Can you imagine being immersed in the identity of God?  I think maybe it's something like this:
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. --1 John 4:16
I think we are well-meaning when we talk about "making time for God" in our lives, but I don't think we should have to make time for God.  God shouldn't be something that we schedule in our calendar for 15 minutes each day or something that is on a checklist of things to do.  This God that loves us and reaches out to us throughout every second of our day deserves more than that.

So let's stop making God part of our day, and abide in Him all day.

1 comment:

Gary said...

Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran Bible scholars say that the Greek word "baptizo" means simply "washing". Baptist Bible scholars say that "baptizo" ONLY means "immersion". Who is right?

Why don't we ask a non-Christian linguistics expert for an unbiased opinion? He has no "dog in this fight".