“This dying and rising, this crossing over from death to life which happens at baptism, is not a one-off thing – but it is to be our daily vesture as Christians.” Br. Geoffrey Tristram, Society of Saint John the Evangelist, SSJE.org, “Brother Give us a word,” Daily Email. August 29, 2018, a daily email sent to friends and followers of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, a religious order for men in the Episcopal/Anglican Church. www.ssje.org,.
If we were baptized in a river or by full immersion, we might better understand this well-known theological concept of baptism as a dying and rebirth and compare it to our life in the world. There is something memorable about going totally under water in the arms of someone else, totally surrendering and wondering for a brief second if we will come back up. When we do have our heads above water, we cannot help but look around, shake our head of dripping hair and give thanks for being alive, a new beginning, a new start, a new you. For some reason we see the world a little clearer. Some of the fog is gone.
Each day a little of us certainly dies physically. Each day we try to learn a little more about surrender. My prayer is that each day a little of my character defects die or are chipped away. When that happens, I do indeed know resurrection, a new life, a life of peace and love and joy. But as so often happens, pieces of those character defects or sins seem to come right back like magnets to places in our mind and body and spirit where they so comfortably lived at one time. Sometimes they come back like some fiery ugly dragon from some place inside of us that we never knew existed, and we end up having to make more apologies than we did in the past.
Baptism in our tradition is a onetime thing, but dying and resurrection are a daily, sometimes hourly event. The concept that at baptism we see dying and resurrection is still important. I love Br. Geoffrey’s use of the word, vesture, meaning a garment that covers us, like a vestment. He is offering to us the opportunity to try to imagine wearing our baptism like a vestment throughout the day. An amazing concept!
As we watch infants, toddlers, youth, and adults being baptized, we might imagine their putting on a vestment to cover them throughout eternal life as a promise that they are marked as God’s own forever, and God is always with them in each dying and each resurrection in their lives. We hold on to this sacrament as an outward and visible both sign and symbol of our life in and with Christ in the world.
There are parts of us that are dying, but there are parts of us that need dying, and God offers resurrection to us daily at each death on both sides of the veil.