So John showed up in the middle of nowhere, dunking people in a river telling people to straighten up because it’s time to break free. People came from everywhere, even from Washington DC, to renounce their misdeeds and get cleaned up in the river.
John dressed in ratty coveralls and leather suspenders. He kept to a strict vegan diet. And his message: “Get ready for someone so cool I’m unworthy to even tie his shoes! I just got you wet. He’ll set your life on fire!”
That was when Jesus came. He arrived from Nazareth and John dunked him in the Jordan River. As he emerged from the water he saw the universe as it really is, and he felt it resonate to his core: that he was God’s precious child, and God was joy.
Baptism might just get you wet. Or it might just change your life.
In itself, there’s nothing magical about a dip in the water. Even if it’s a religiously motivated one, with a formal liturgy, specially blessed water, godparents, and the whole works. What makes it special is what you do with it after you get out of the water.
Talk about baptism almost inevitably leads to arguments about what the proper way to do it is (immersion, sprinkling, pouring) and when is the proper time (infancy, childhood, teenagers, or full-grown adults), and whose name is invoked and how (see this week’s discussion of Acts). But really, baptism doesn’t have to follow any formula or time or semantics at all.
Whether or not there was any water involved at the moment it happened, your baptism is when you realized who you are at your very core and you accepted that realization with joy. So much joy, that as difficult as it may have been (and still be), it’s impossible not to live the rest of your life out of that moment.