Hymn #450 in Celebrating Grace Hymnal — “With Water Freely Flowing”
[pullquote_center width=”75%”]By water and the Spirit baptized in Christ, we rise
To walk new paths unfolding before our opened eyes.
We journey from this moment, faith’s pilgrimage embrace.
By Spirit and by water we feel and sense God’s grace.[/pullquote_center]
There is a long and rich tradition of debating the exact meaning of baptism, and every viewpoint probably holds a portion of truth. Following the example of Christ, representation of burial and resurrection, the symbolism of being cleansed, and many other ideas contribute to our understanding of baptism’s role in spiritual life. This new hymn by Larry Schultz explores one of my favorite thoughts on baptism, that of path or journey.
In the books on Native American life I poured over during the summers of my childhood, drawings of ‘sign’ were a very popular topic. These ‘sign’ might include stacked rocks, scrapes in the dirt or on trees, even sticks arranged certain ways to indicate direction, warning, even just to say “I was here, world!” When I think of baptism, I sometimes think of these trail markers. To me, baptism represents neither the inception nor the culmination of a spiritual journey. Rather, believer’s baptism represents a marker along the path of a life lived in Christ, growth before the baptism, continued growth after it. Our faith lives have built toward this point of embracing Christ in a public way, and they will continue to deepen and broaden from this point.
This moment, this baptism, is ‘sign’ along our path.