by Denise Rector
I grew up in the denomination named for baptism, with altar calls and baptismal pools. I was baptized when I was old enough to contemplate the outward manifestations of the ritual, which will sound familiar to most Christians. The ritual included dressing in all white and being examined for my understanding of the faith. The ritual of baptism was a public event with witnesses, and finally, the congregation’s applause and joy.
You may or may not remember your baptism. Maybe you were an infant in a traditional, even heirloom gown. Perhaps you were baptized as an adult at a font or a shoreline or a water trough or even during a trip to the Holy Land. I have seen people transported through these and other diverse portals into the body of Christ and the mission we share.
Even as we love—and yes, project our dreams and hopes upon—those being baptized, those of us witnessing this divine portal are making promises related to God’s mission in the world. When you and I attend a baptism and follow along with the liturgy, we both celebrate and make commitments. We state our responsibility to God, ourselves and each other, as well as to our new sibling in Christ.
This mission we share is the work of bringing God’s reconciliation into the world. And this mission does not just belong to the pastors and deacons. It belongs to every member of God’s church. We, as the baptized, are called to use our vocation (or calling) toward the realizing of God’s reconciliation. The play on words of “call/vocation” is intentional.
God’s reconciliation does not just happen on Sunday morning or at the church’s next outreach project. It can happen everywhere there is a baptized person. You and I, as the baptized, do the work of God in our daily lives: interacting with family members, grocery shopping, paying for gas, ordering a pizza. All these seemingly mundane daily activities are a chance to model Christ to another person through listening, accompaniment and service.
After all, we do not have one identity in the church building and another identity outside. We have one baptismal identity that we can live out with each breath and every action.
Denise Rector, a Ph.D. candidate at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, serves as a program assistant for ELCA Justice for Women. She has an MDiv from Wartburg Theological Seminary and enjoys poetry, education and baseball.
This article is excerpted from the September/October 2021 issue of Gather magazine.