I have always wished that I could serve a congregation that has a full-immersion baptismal font in the entrance of the church. You know, like a full on, up-to-your-waist font, with a fountain that gurgles, built with elegant stone that says “this is a really significant and symbolic piece of furniture in this sanctuary—pay attention.” A font that is unavoidable, and that you actually have to notice before you enter the rest of the worship space. A baptistery that says, “Do not pass go, do not collect $200.” Or maybe, better, “This is the way in (to life in Christ).”
I want a full-immersion baptismal font, not because I think that immersion is necessary or even superior to
sprinkling. No, it’s the symbolism that intrigues me.
In the early church, baptismal fonts were always built as pools.Whether the font was in the shape of a circle, square, or a cross, whether it was raised or dug into the ground, the candidate stood at least waist-deep in the water with the pastor and was plunged into the water “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The baptismal candidate descended down into the basin from the entrance to the sanctuary, meeting the baptizer in the deepest part of the water, then only after baptism stepped out of the water, into the sanctuary—symbolizing his or her entrance into the community of faith.
During this season of Lent you will find our modest baptismal fonts poised at the opening to our worship spaces. They are there to catch your attention, and make you stop and wonder. Each week the fonts will be filled with symbols for the Gospel stories. Sand for wilderness. Branches and eggs for God gathering us in. Horseshoe nails and blossoms for suffering and hope. Why those symbols in the font? Because it is through the font that we enter into faith, that we enter into our daily life.
By the time you read these words, we will be three-fifths of the way through the Sundays of Lent. We have been privileged to hear from Sandy and Keith Klungness, Bobbi McClain, and Dwight Otto; in the next two weeks we will hear from Mike Ragan and Janet Freeman-Daily. By the time we reach Holy Week, each of these people will have told us about what their baptism means for their daily life—how they see God at work moving with them and inspiring them to be present and active in the world.
At Sunday Forum, we are having a conversation between the Gospel passages for Sundays and our own lives. We are practicing recognizing how our life of faith calls us to die to sin and be made alive in Christ. As Luther says in the Small Catechism: “[Baptism] signifies that the old person in us … is to be drowned and die through daily sorrow for sin and through repentance, and on the other hand that daily a new person is to ... rise up to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” Consider joining the conversation.
On Wednesday nights during Vespers we are doing a prayer practice called the Examen, considering how we have experienced God in the past week, and how we might seek God’s guidance in the next week. In prayer and in worship we are practicing dying and rising in Christ.
Finally, all of our attention to baptism brings us to the Easter Vigil and the celebration of the resurrection. In the early church Lent was a time when candidates for baptism entered into an intensive period of preparation before Easter. That preparation culminated at the Vigil, where the candidate promised to live among God’s faithful people, hear God’s word and share in the Lord’s supper, follow Christ’s example in word and deed, and seek justice and peace, in the world. We will affirm the same commitments at our Easter Vigil—and in those commitments we will experience dying and rising.
May God who takes us on this blessed journey, give us confidence that we will rise in Christ to the joy of Easter.
Lori, Pastor Lori Cornell