Tag Archives: Romans 6

Baptism ABC: D is for Dying

Our mortality is difficult to face. Even more difficult is to contmeplate the mortality of our children. Yet the ritual of baptism faces the reality of death head on.

When my daughter Suzanne was about two years old, she was diagnosed with mitral valve insufficiency, which means she had a small hole in her heart. The cardiologist told us that she would need open heart surgery to repair her heart. Such surgery required stopping Suzanne’s heart and placing her on a heart/lung machine while the surgeon closed the hole. Such surgery had become routine in the early 90’s, yet nothing is routine when it comes to one’s own child. The news rocked my world.

That night I stood over her bed as Suzanne slept. I prayed for Suzanne and her upcoming surgery. I prayed concerning my own fear and apprehension. Tears welled up.  Then I contemplated the promise God made to her in her baptism.

Baptism holds a bold declaration and even bolder promise. In his letter to Romans, Paul writes

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore, we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4).

Paul uses the act of baptism by immersion, where the baptized person is completely submerged under the water. This immersion is a symbolic burial, just as Jesus died and was buried. In baptism we die with Jesus. Paul goes on to write that in baptism, “our old self was crucified with him (Jesus) so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin (Romans 6:6).” Baptism recognizes our mortality comes from our sin, our rebellion with God, and overcomes the power of sin by burying our sinful self with Christ. In stark terms, baptism declares us dead.

Christina and Suzanne at Jacks Baptism

Daughters Christina and Suzanne enjoy their nephew Jack at his baptism

But it goes beyond that declaration to a more glorious promise. Not only are we buried with Jesus, but, like Jesus, we are raised to newness of life. The central belief of Christianity is that Jesus rose from the dead. In baptism we are joined to his resurrection. Symbolically this is expressed in an immersion baptism when the newly baptized is raised up out of the water, breathing the new life.

As I stood over my daughter’s bed, contemplating her pending surgery, I remembered this promise. She was alive in Christ and was already experiencing the newness of life. Even if she were to die in surgery, she was Christ’s child and held by the promise of eternal life.

Her surgery went well and she recovered quickly (though, as with any trauma, she did have some emotional residue that was challenging for her and her family at times). Today, twenty years later, she is a vivacious, creative young woman who I deeply love. I am glad that she remains on this earth.

Lord Jesus, let me die to sin and walk in newness of life with you today.

Ashes and Water

Today, Ash Wednesday, begins the 40 days of Lent. In several Christian traditions, the placement of ashes upon one’s forehead is a reminder of our mortality and our need to repent. As Abraham spoke to Almighty God, “Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes.” Adam was made from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7). We each return to the dust and ash when our bodies die and decompose. We may not like to face that fact, but the truth keeps coming back.

Ashes are also a sign of repentance, our need to turn back to God. The book of Jonah describes how the people of Nineveh responded to Jonah’s message to turn back to God.

And Jonah cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. (Jonah 3:4-6).

The imposition of ashes also connects us to our baptism. Many Lutherans and others were baptized with water on their forehead. It was a sign of washing and renewal, of dying with Jesus and rising again to new life. Paul writes how baptism is connected to Jesus crucifixion and resurrection.

But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:8-11):

The ashes are thus a reminder that we have already died in our baptism. We died to sin and corruption, and have begun to live the new life in Christ. The ashes we place on our head will eventually wash away; the promise of our baptism is not so easily removed. The Holy Spirit holds us in Christ Jesus.

Lord Jesus, let me die to sin and death that I might live with you now and forever.