See Jane Run…

Mark 1:9-15 – 1st Sunday of Lent – for February 26, 2012

“…Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.” (Mark 1:9)

I was baptized once.

No, hundreds of times.

Raised in the American Baptist Church, my parents had me “dedicated” as a baby, but it would be my decision for a formal, full-immersion baptism. As a United Methodist clergy, most of the baptisms I’ve celebrated have been squirming infants while I dribbled H2O on their heads. Thus, based on my childhood church’s traditions, and the denomination I serve as a so-called responsible adult, I’m uniquely qualified to argue with myself about when (and how) a believer should be baptized.

Let’s see what you believe . . .

Those who think infants should be baptized, please line-up against the digital wall on the right side of the virtual room. And you adults-only supporters . . . over to the left wall. Both sides, please behave!

I’ll remain in the middle of the room and give a quiz:

The proper way to use the baptismal water is:

A. Minister sprinkles water on head once
B. Minister sprinkles water on head three times (symbolizing Father, Son and Holy Ghost or Creator, Christ and Spirit or . . .)
C. For a once-only ceremony, minister pinches believer’s nose closed and immerses her/him in water.
D. For as many times as it takes (for sinners keep sinning and need to be saved again…and again…and again), the minister pinches believer’s nose closed and immerses her/him in water.
E. The water better be a river, and not just a Jolly Green Giant-sized bathtub behind the sanctuary’s altar.
F. Who needs a minister? Like Robert Duvall’s Sonny in “The Apostle,” you can baptize yourself.

Is it okay to baptize yourself? Duvall's character Sonny did it in "The Apostle."

At “F” I grew weary (wary?), so that’s where the quiz ends. (For example, I began research on Anabaptists and their baptismal beliefs and practices, but my head started hurting. So “F” is where I’ll stop, though I hope it’s not the grade I’ll get as I reflect about this wondrous sacrament.)

It’s complicated: who we baptize and when; how we baptize and why.

And yet, maybe not. For Christians, before baptism evolved into a sacrament, a special set-aside ritual to acknowledge and celebrate a believer’s trust in the God revealed by Jesus Christ, it was the simple act of a man* wading into the Jordan River.

Therefore, let me tell you about Jane. That’s not her real name, but I do want to protect her identity. I grew up in the 1950/60s and recall those insipid, vaguely helpful, Dick and Jane (See Jane run!) books that taught kids how to read. Dear, sweet Jane. A simple name: easy to pronounce and neutral. So I’ll use it to keep my Jane anonymous. Continue reading →